TESTING!! its over….now what?

IMG_9481

 

Just as the title states Testing is over… so now what? Ever since the beginning of state mandated tests, there has always seemed to be a void toward the end of school. Usually, the last month of school is time for celebration and relaxation. And who is not to blame the students and teachers for wanting to do so. They have worked so hard for the past school year. Unfortunately, a downside of this time is students begin to miss days due to their thoughts of “we aren’t going to do anything today, so I will just miss.”

So what am I doing now the testing is over?

First, a little background of my past year. Earlier this past year I wrote about the scores I received from the last academic year. For those of you who did not read it, you can find it here. Let’s just say I was not pleased with my performance from the last year. Fortunately, I received the scores before Christmas break and was able to change the way I presented my material.

Being a History Teacher; lecturing is something that is almost a given, but I made sure I adhered to my mantra for the second semester. “Don’t Be Boring.” Some lessons I experimented with variations of PBL for my class and others I had my students to create flashcards of their own with pictures or drawings anything that would help them remember the concept. One of the biggest class changing opportunities came from Dr. Dan Lawson My School Law professor. (Currently, I am enrolled to receive my Ed.S.) One of our assignments was to create a screencastify of a supreme court case. I completed my project then wondered how I could use it in my classroom.

A few weeks later I had a student to be out sick for about a week and a half. I had a project I was introducing, and I didn’t want her to get behind. I used screencastify to give her instructions. When she came back, she asked if I could create more videos for her to watch at home. So from then on, I began to experiment with video creation in my class. I had a few students who asked to be in the video and then it took off! I had a list of students wanting to be in the video I had many students watch the videos on their time while out of class just to see their friends and wonder if they would get a shout out at the end of the video. The greatest thing about the videos was they were learning on their own time.

So how will I do on my state tests? Honestly, I don’t know, but I will say that all of my students have indicated they were more prepared for my test than others.(Of course, this is not saying that any other teacher in my school isn’t doing their job. I just think my kids were making me feel better about it.) My students this year are possibly the most confident group of kids I have had.

So now the tests are over.. Now what? As stated earlier this time of year is where the fun is. Most students feel that the learning is over, but that is not the case. Many educators use this time to experiment for the next year and even go on some field trips. My plan is to hit the ground running for our end of year project, but first, we will celebrate with our annual History Department Kickball/Games. High Schoolers may look like adults, but they are still kids at heart, and nothing will bring out fun like healthy competition. Other teachers and I get just as competitive as the kids.

Now back to the academic action, I am planning on my students to create a legacy project for the remaining time. I will ask them to interview A person of interest who has experienced a significant historical event. They are to interview and video a person in their life who has been influential such as parents or grandparents who have experienced a historical event whatever that event may be. My inspiration for this project was from my experience. I got to interview and video my grandfather six months before his death, and it is so wonderful to have this memory of him that I can come back to. My thoughts are this could be a great opportunity for students to interview a family member and to preserve it forever. With the technology, we have now I feel this is something that can easily be done. I want this to be a project they can cherish forever.

I also teach a class called History of Modern Music. We explore all music genres in the U.S. from the 1920s to present Day. I also want to create a podcast over music. My students will do the research on a particular artist, and I will interview them on their findings. I have had a lot of excitement over this topic. My plan is for the students to have one old and new artist to bring to the table.

Also, next year we are moving to block schedule, as we prepare for our school morph into the Academy model for our school. I want to sit down with my students and help me map out the next year with projects. What worked what didn’t, How could I do better, or should I not include. Our students are our biggest critics, and we can learn from them on what will make us better to make them better.

So as we wrap up this school year remember some of the best lessons and memories can come from this time after the test. Ultimately it is up to you to keep the learning and exploring going. Always remember you make more of an impact than you think!

 

Tomorrow you guys will be getting  Thomas Fuhrman, will share the ways that we are moving to the outer reaches of our campus (and beyond) in the month of May to become more college- and career-excited and aware through opportunities to work in our Ag Lab, participate with a variety of local partners for our school-wide career day, and our fourth graders visit Tennessee Technological University.  https://tfuhrman.wordpress.com/

And if you have missed any of the other  MastersofthePedagogy (1)you can go back and check them out here.

Monday’s Mick Shuran  mickshuran.com

Tuesday’s Julie  http://techhelpful.blogspot.com/

Wednesday Christopher http://firesidechats.blog/

Testing is over…now what? (Teaser)

I am excited to announce a new collaborative with fellow educators from the wonderful state of Tennessee! We are working on a blog series called Testing is over…now what? Each day of the upcoming week will I will post a link to their blog of what they are doing post State Testing.Please be sure to read and support my friends and colleagues.

 

 

 

Below are the release dates of each blog.

Monday: Mick Shuran http://mickshuran.com 

Tuesday: Julie Davis http://techhelpful.blogspot.com/

Wednesday: Christopher King http://firesidechats.blog/

Thursday: Jacob Dunn https://cultivateedu.com/

Friday: ThoFuhrmanhman https://tfuhrman.wordpress.com/

 

Fooling around with block schedule

For most of the ones reading this, the term block schedule is relatively old. Although, as long as I can remember the school I teach at has been on a six or seven period day with classes roughly around fifty minutes a piece.

We have toyed around with the idea of block schedule for years, especially should we or should we not do it. This year we have finally made the decision to go for it. Starting at the beginning of next school year we will be running on an alternating A/B block schedule. Which will look similar to something like this. With the exception being 85-minute classes and lunch would be during 3rd and 7th block. 80-min-block

This decision did not come lightly, and many discussions and personal opinions went into this important plan. Some of the biggest challenges to the block schedule have been we have always done scheduling this way, and we should just continue to stick with what we know. Here lies the problem with the majority of educators. We are so afraid to get out and try something new. Why? Is it fear we are not going to be good at it?

This past week we tested out a modified block schedule, and I am proud to say I was scared of the unknown, but you know what I loved it. I never felt rushed when I was in my lesson. My students and I could get into actual activities and FINISH them without fear of the bell ringing. I could evaluate my students as they were in their groups and check for understanding. I would chalk this up to success.  Below is the schedule we tried this week.

block-scheduleAs I spoke with the students and other teachers, of course, I had mixed reviews. Mainly the ones who were not sold were ones who did not prepare for what was coming. Others just thought lecturing for 90 minutes would suffice.(News flash! Kids don’t like that these days if ever!) It could be that I want to be the best I can and to improve my craft every day, but the time for “winging” it is not in this day and time.

If you are a teacher and are on a block schedule and you need help looking for activities or ways to teach I would suggest what one of my colleagues Brandon Eldridge (who is a contributor on this site.) recommended chunk your lessons into three or four parts. Brandon has taught under block in a previous school district and enjoyed doing so. He shared a lesson plan that could be used within our classes during our PLC time. It helped me with an understanding of the concepts.

Also, I have found an excellent PDF that Russell County Schools in Jamestown Kentucky has put together about teaching on the block schedule. You can find it here.

If you are new to teaching on a block schedule, please do not be worried about if you mess up. The best teachers are the ones who have a growth mindset, and if you keep this in mind, you will do great.

We will be returning to the block schedule a few more times this semester for us to become more familiar with this schedule. I will keep you updated on the goings on.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

JD

Leave the Ego Behind

Most of the ones who will read this are Educators and will understand the struggle of which the following post may reveal. For the past couple of years I have looked at my test scores and have been proud of them and what my students had accomplished. How was I to know the wake-up call I was about to endure.

I am an educator in the state of Tennessee and most Tennesseans have heard of the new testing process that has replaced the TCAP EOC to now TCAP TNReady. If you are not familiar with the whole TNReady debacle then you may want to look it up here. But that is a whole other story. What I am here to talk about is me and my performance on the TNReady test.

As mentioned earlier I have had decent test scores over the years. To say I was an outstanding or all-star teacher may be a stretch for me but I would like to think of myself as middle of the road according to the Value Added measures our State uses. So naturally, I went into the 2015-2016 school year very confident in my ability to prepare my students for the test that year. I had a few new tricks up my sleeve, I read a couple of books to get me pumped up for that year. All in hopes of having another good year. Then the tests came, and the scores were delayed and delayed again. I was not fretting over this because the State of Tennessee said our scores would not count although, I was really excited to see how I would stack up.

Finally, the end of November came around and the test scores from May had been released, I jokingly said I can not wait to see the one( Tennessee scores teachers on a 1-5 scale.)  Until I actually looked at my score, and I was an ONE? This can not be I told myself and I thought well I was a one so all of my other colleagues must be as well. I went down the list of my fellow U.S. History teachers asking them how they did I received the responses of; Five, Five, and Four. Now I was thinking this must be wrong there is no way I am the lowest effective teacher in our department it just cannot be. I kept thinking long and hard about what type of excuse I would have to give to all of my fellow teachers such as, the kids knew it was not going to count so they did not try. Then I had a meeting with myself to reevaluate what I had done over the last year.

I was beyond hurt, I just did not know how to handle myself. My ego was truly demolished at this point. So what did I do? First I realized I was the one to blame for my student’s struggles,  no one else. I then went to each of my fellow teachers and apologized for my scores and I told them I felt I was doing the right thing, and what they were doing was wrong.I did not change my approach with the new standardized test and they did. I went with a more overarching theme. I felt so foolish. The next step I did was have a sit down with my seniors(I teach 12th-grade History of Modern Music) many of them I had last year, and I told them to “grill” me and tell me what I did wrong. And guess what? they did, and it hurt, it hurt bad. I did not realize they hated the method I used with them, they were being nice all last year. One student told me she could not wrap her brain around the process I was trying to use, one in which I thought was easier.

That weekend I went home and I racked my brain, I went over and over what my students had told me and I put together a plan of old and new, creating more of a story with my students. So far my results on tests have been improved, but we shall see how the results will be at the end of the year.

My hope in writing this piece is not to let you know how I am changing the way I am teaching, this is more on how we as educators let our egos get in the way and only see our way of teaching. There are so many ways we can teach our children, but we are the ones who have to step aside and see what is best for them. I have taken the approach with my students this year as I would my six-year-old daughter and my 10-month-old son. We as educators should treat every child we have in our class like they are your own. Better yet ask yourself if my child were sitting in my class how would I want them to be taught. Thank you for your time in reading this I hope it will become and inspiration to you.

 

Busy! Remember this.

Busy, a word that many teachers know and know well. I haven’t blogged in some three months due to this same word. Something we have all come to grasp with when we take on this profession. I know other jobs are equally as busy as teachers, but it just seems as if there is never enough time in the day to get all the things done you want to get done.

I just like many of you are bogged down with many committee meetings and lesson planning and grading etc. Just this year alone I am teaching a new class(History of Modern Music).I have been selected to be on the School Leadership team, District Leadership team, chosen by a range finding committee with our state TN Ready test, strategic planning committee, etc. On top of that, I am Married with two children! There are many days when I just feel I am drowning in paperwork, but the reward is so much worth it.

The reward is the relationships you build with students and former students. Just the other night I was reminded of this. At my daughter’s school, they were celebrating their Fall Festival; I was approached by a former student whom I had my very first year teaching. He came up to me shook my hand, and we shared some stories from that year. I apologized to the young man for not being the best that year. He responded we knew you were new and we tested you every moment we could get. He went on to tell me how much he respected me and how he enjoyed my class. This student is one who didn’t go to college, he has a good job with our local road department and will continue to serve and live a productive life in our community. In my book, this conversation will be greater than any test score I may ever get!

So as we are entering the Thanksgiving holiday keep this in mind no matter how busy our jobs get. You are shaping a relationship with a student that will be priceless.

 

Personalizing PD Part III: Voxer

Continuing on our summertime series on personalizing your PD, I have been very fortunate on learning along the way. I have covered Twitter, and how becoming a “connected educator” will open the doors to so many amazing teachers, and Podcasts allowing you to learn on the fly where ever you may be. Having the opportunity to interview some awesome educational podcasters from the Education Podcast Network (edupodcastnetwork.com) is one of my proudest moments of curating content on this blog. Thanks once again to Chris Nesi (chrisnesi.com) host of House of #Edtech, and Mari Venturino, and Justin Birckbichler hosts of EduRoadtrip (eduroadtrip.com) for taking the time to answer some questions I had for them.

The next topic we are going to venture into will be the world of Voxer. Voxer is a messaging service. You can download it as an app for your phone, or you may use it in your web browser. The great thing about Voxer is not only can you share pictures and text messages to each other, but you can also use your voice as a way of communication. I started to use Voxer after seeing it in a Twitter Chat. I enjoy the way you can communicate with other people from around the world and hear their voice and their passion for a certain topic.

There are many groups on Voxer. I will attach a link to Voxer groups you can join. I have been able to communicate with so many wonderful educators. It is surely an amazing way to learn more from each other.  Voxer is an application for you to put in your PD tool bag.

Personalizing your PD part II; Podcasts

Personalizing professional development has become something I have become passionate about; I hear the stories of my colleagues who are sent to “sit and get” PD which has no merit to their particular grade level or subject. I am constantly trying to get better, so I can better serve my students. My late grandfather, a former General Manager of a local telephone cooperative, would always remind me: “Complacency is the silent killer.” Complacent is not where we want to be in education; we constantly need to evaluate our ways to keep up with the every changing world. Which leads me to our next stop in our series over professional development, podcasts.

Since the first family computer my parents bought in the 1990s I have been a huge proponent of technology. I would watch Leo Laporte and the screen savers when I would get home from school. TechTV was bought and changed its name to G4 and Leo left my television screen. I was upset.  For the next few years, I have used the internet for my questions about technology. In 2007 I discovered the world of podcasts and my dear old friend Leo Laporte was leading the way. He had created an online podcasting network.(now IP-based television network) Here I could geek out to my hearts content with the excellent programming created. Since then I have branched out to other shows such as: This American Life, Serial, Stuff You Should Know, Things you missed in History Class, Freakonomics, and Planet Money. All of whom have enriched my knowledge.

Podcasting can trace its roots back to the 1980s and was more commonly known as audio blogging. Radio shows would record episodes of their program and would send it to stations for replay. With internet popularity rising in the late 1990s information could be moved at a faster rate and a little company called Napster took the world by storm. People from all over the world could now share audio files with anyone. (The legal system eventually gets involved with Napster, but that is a different story.)  With the surge in digital audio, hardware companies begin to create devices to make the files more portable. Some companies entered the game of Mp3 players but when Apple debuted the iPod the company has not looked back since. The term podcast and the downloading of shows become more widely used with the introduction of Apple’s iPod in 2001.

In part I of the series I wrote on Twitter and all the excellent educators sharing content on that platform. Around the middle of my summer break 2015 while on Twitter one of the teachers I follow Greg Bagby @Gregbagby tweeted he Mari Venturino @MsVenturino and Justin Birckbichler @Mr_B_teacher were releasing a new podcast called Edu Roadtrip. I listened to the first episode and loved it. I witnessed the power of Twitter when I tweeted to them about how great their show was, and on episode two I was referenced as a listener on @Eduroadtrip. Receiving the shout out made my day, I then contacted Justin to see what recommendations he would have for other educational podcasts. He recommended Cult of Pedagogy by  Jenifer Gonzales, and House of #Edtech by Chris Nesi. I downloaded both podcasts and a few others. I was amazed by the content available by these educators who just wanted to share what they have to offer.

So, you now have a brief history of my discovery of podcasts a short history of the origins of podcasts, and my discovery of educational podcasts. Now you want to know how can I use podcasts for my professional development?

If you are an iPhone user, the native podcasting app works well, but I prefer the Overcast app. Overcast lets you sync your podcasts over the internet, if you want to listen on your desktop at school it will pick up right where you left off. If you are on Android, I have read good reviews about the podkicker app which is free. Just search for any of the shows I have listened or you can check out the Education Podcasting Network to see some of their shows. (www.edupodcastnetwork.com) The Education Podcasting Network is my favorite place for educational content. The majority of the hosts are in still in the classroom, or they have extensive classroom experience.

I had the privilege to interview some of the stars of the Educational Podcasting Network. Chris Nesi, Host of House of #Edtech, Justin Brickbichler and Mari Venturino of Eduroadtrip, have also taken time from their busy schedules to answer a few questions.  We will begin with the Host of the House of #Edtech podcast Chris Nesi.

Chris Nesi has been in education since the fall of 2007, before becoming an educator he was involved with children for years as a volunteer. Chris was first inspired to become a teacher by his father, and many of the teachers he had in throughout his life.  “One particular teacher, my high school English teacher and Drama advisor, Mrs. MaryAnn Cochran. She was a teacher, mentor, and friend and still fills these roles even today.”

Chris became a “connected educator” and mentioned; “I love interacting with people and having conversations about the things I am interested in. Fostering relationships with people who have similar professional interests outside my place of employment has been very powerful and has given me what I need for learning and to gain an outside perspective on the good and bad of my work.”

Discussing podcasting I questioned Chris about his interest in podcasting his response was; “I started the House of #EdTech Podcast because I became tired of being merely a retweeter of other people’s voices and content. I knew I had a unique perspective on technology integration and education technology tools that I wanted to share with the world. A little nudge from my wife, who suggested podcasting, was all I needed to go all in on creating something I am very proud of. Prior to getting into this artform I was aware of podcasts but was not a consumer and I am now addicted to creating my show and consuming a wide variety of podcasts for my own growth personally and professionally.”

I asked Chris, How can an educator benefit from podcasts? His answer; “A podcast should cause the listener to laugh, think, cry, or do in addition to educating and/or entertaining you. Everyone, not just educators, should consumer podcasts. They are more enriching than radio and they can be consumed anytime and anywhere. You don’t need to focus solely on what you’re listening to in order to enjoy it. You can do laundry, mow the grass, run, etc.”

Becoming a well rounded person via this platform can only enhance your teaching. If you consume podcasts related to your content that’s growth. If you consume content related to education in general that’s growth. If you consume content related to your passion — you guessed it, that’s growth!

So grow!”

 

Getting to interview Chris Nesi was great, and I have more from him later in the article. I will now turn my focus to two of the three hosts of the Edu Roadtrip Podcast Mari Venturino and Justin Birckbichler. Starting with Mari; Mari just finished her fourth year teaching 7th grade Science and is a Blended Learning Specialist in San Diego, CA. She is a Google For Education Certified Trainer, a Google Certified Educator Levels 1 & 2, and is Leading Edge Certified in Online and Blended Instruction. She is the co-founder of #FlyHighFri, a movement to share positivity in person and on social media, and the co-founder of Breakout EDU Digital with Justin Birckbichler.

Mari’s inspiration for teaching comes from; “Teaching has always been a passion, and I have had many incredible teachers along the way. However, I didn’t seriously start to see it as a career until college. I was at Camp Winters Music Camp as a counselor, leading a sectional rehearsal, when it hit me that teaching is something I’m good at and I enjoy, and therefore I should pursue it seriously.

How Mari became a “connected educator”:  It was a slow process. I signed up for a “professional” Twitter account in February 2014 (I created a personal one back in summer 2008), but it took me almost a year to actually dive in headfirst. Once I realized that there were many other teachers looking to connect and share, I was hooked. I’m thankful for #caedchat (California’s ed chat, 8pm PST Sunday nights) for pushing me to reach out, connect, and grow.

Mari, you are the host of Edu Roadtrip. What interested you in podcasts? “A lot of our podcast started as a series of inside jokes. We realized there are far too many twitter chats, so we branched out and decided to start podcasting. It took a few months to research and solidify our content, and it has been a wonderful growing experience for us all!”

 When asking Mari how a teacher could benefit from podcasts her answer was: “Podcasts are easy to access for anyone with an internet connection. I download them and listen on my commute to and from work (about 25 minutes), at the gym, or while cleaning the house. It’s easy to multitask and listen–usually. When I’m in the car, I often have idea sparks that I’d love to remember; I have tons of voice memos and reminders in my phone with new ideas and ways to approach teaching and learning.

One of Mari’s partners in crime Justin Birckbichler just finished his third year of teaching fourth grade in Virginia. Justin became inspired to become an educator from his 2nd-grade teacher Mrs. Ghessi. Justin said; “she made learning fun and was a pivotal person in his life.”

Justin stated he became a “connected educator” from a close friend named Jenn Guido.  Justin, you are the co-host of Edu Roadtrip with Mari, and Greg Bagby. How did you become interested in podcasting? “Mari, Greg, and I connected on twitter, and said let’s try podcasting.”

Justin says the biggest benefit of an educator listening to podcasts is; “You have a choice, and availability of podcasts is a help. Plus, it is on the go. Podcasts can be consumed anywhere, and with the ability to speed up podcasts help to finish an episode in half the time.”

It was truly an honor to speak with these amazing educators and picking their brain. I asked all my interviewees more questions about Podcasting. I asked all of them What is different about podcasting that makes it a great form for personalizing your PD? Justin informed me; “Choice, thousands of podcast are out there. You can also hear the passion in the voice of the person hosting the show.” Chris stated; “As a podcaster, I get to talk with people who I might not normally have access to and that’s my dirty secret. I’m the first person in line for learning from my podcast. The conversations are ones that I am having and then sharing. Guests are teaching me first and I let the listener in. The other personal aspect is that I get to choose what I listen to, when I listen to it, and if I will continue listening at any point in time. Nobody mandates anything about it to me.” Mari also said; “I love the opportunity to ask incredible teachers, administrators, and educators about their passions, their successes, and learning opportunities. It’s all recorded, so I can go back and listen at any time, and share what I learn with others. Twitter chats are great, however it’s hard to convey emotion and dive deep in only 140 characters. With podcasts we can hear the person’s voice and passion in their words.”

 

If anyone is interested in becoming a podcaster who would they go about doing so?

Chris: “Contact me. As someone who is 2+ years into creating podcasts I have experiences that I am willing to share along with recommendations I can make. I am also connected to people who are in the world of podcasting and aren’t necessarily teachers but they teach podcasting.”

Mari:The EduRoadTrip podcast is very low tech and is done almost entirely with free software. There are three of us on the team: Greg Bagby, Justin Birckbichler, and myself. We spent a long time together figuring out the format of our podcast and logistics. We had to ask ourselves: Will I have a theme? What segments will I have? If I have interviews, how will I set those up? How often will I release new episodes?

We keep track of everything using Google Forms (scheduling) and Docs (episode planning). Then, we record our episodes using Google Hangouts on Air, and Justin strips out the audio and edits it using a paid program. We publish our episodes through Blogger, which sends the episode to iTunes and Stitcher via Feedburner.

We released a Rest Stop episode last fall where we talk about our entire process: http://www.eduroadtrip.com/2015/10/rs002-method-to-our-madness-rest-stop.html

Justin:Just reach out to podcasters, Jeff Bradbury is who I contacted to help us with Edu Roadtrip. All of what we do is free, but pay options could be a better option. Just don’t hesitate to reach out.”

My last question I had for the three was. Is there any advice you would like to give our readers to help with their personal PD discovery?

Justin: “Pick something you are interested in, and pick something you might want to get better at.”

Mari: “We’re all growing and learning together. It can be scary to connect and reach out at first, but remember everyone else had their first tweet, first blog post, first podcast episode, etc. Ask for recommendations from people you trust and respect, and be prepared to share your favorites too. Remember “Sometimes teaching is smooth highway, and other times it’s a bumpy mountain road. As long as you’ve got your friends with you, it’s bound to be an adventure!”

Our lives have become busier every day, and podcasts have a great opportunity for educators to expand our knowledge, traveling to work, working out, or even gardening can create your own space for learning. Finding the right podcast for you may take some time and digging, but I hope I can steer you in the right direction.”

 Chris: ““Follow your passions and knowledge is truly power. There’s always a choice and whether it’s podcasts, Twitter or something else, you have the power to choose the what, where, when, and how you want to learn. Start with subscribing to House of #EdTech :-)”

Using podcasts are a great way to enrich your life. There are thousands upon thousands of podcasts at your fingertips. Discover your passion, find your favorite podcasting app, download and enjoy. Please make sure you visit and support the websites of the individuals I interviewed. 

http://www.chrisnesi.com

http://www.eduroadtrip.com

http://www.edupodcastnetwork.com

Next week Voxer! 

 

 

Personalizing your PD Part I

Summer break is upon us, and while you are planning vacations, sitting by the pool, or enjoying your favorite music festival there is still the ever looming professional development days most states and districts require. We have all been there looking over the list of days your district has for you dreading or wondering what you will have to go to or sit through.  You may even wonder will this even be tailored to fit the needs of my students or myself. So I made it a mission to help myself in the classroom, and this will be part one of my journey.

Most of you have heard of Twitter; it is the social media site which allows you 140 characters or less to get your message across. I had been on Twitter since the beginning; I was fortunate to get my name @jacobdunn as my “Twitter handle.” For the first few years of being on Twitter, I treated it like a Facebook that never took off. Many of my Facebook friends never made it to the social site, and I used it as a way to consume content that was interesting to me.

Five years ago I began blogging about teaching and discovered the world of Twitter. I thought could share my blog with thousands of teachers. I then discovered other teachers doing the same as I, creating content and exchanging what they knew. It wasn’t until 2015 I began participating in educational Twitter chats on a regular basis.I admittedly was disappointed I hadn’t done it any sooner. Within the past year, I have learned so much from my colleagues on Twitter. I have expanded my professional learning network (PLN) and made wonderful connections with teachers all around the world.

Using Twitter may seem very intimidating at first, and you are more than welcome to ask me any question you may have about using it. You are probably wondering how you may participate in a Twitter chat. Twitter uses the hashtag as a way for people of like mind to search for specific topics. One of the first Twitter chats I participated in is possibly the largest of all chats #edchat. I was very overwhelmed at first, so many people seeming to go hundreds of miles an hour on a topic about education. I did learn a lot from this chat but since then I have branched off to more relevant conversations which benefit my teaching. I still go back to #edchat often. The most Twitter chats I am active in are; #BFC530, #sschat, #TNTechChat, and #TNEdchat. Being a Social Studies teacher in Tennessee, you can see my where my focus is.

The first step for you to explore the world of Twitter should join an Ed Chat. If you are and English teacher I recommend #Engchat or a second-grade teacher #2ndchat. I will add a link below which has the list of all Twitter chats.

https://sites.google.com/site/twittereducationchats/education-chat-calendar

Wanting more information on Twitter? Check out this link, or you may contact me on here or on Twitter @jacobdunn

https://support.twitter.com/articles/215585

Happy connecting through Twitter! Part II will be over Podcasts and hopefully will come within the next week.

 

Where does the “Spark” go?

The other day I was observing my five-year-old daughter.(She is now six). When talking about school with her, she loves it and her teacher. She talks to her mother and me about what happens at school that day, and all the other goings on with her in her educational life.  I teach high school kids, and it rarely seems my students enjoy school.

Which brings me to the question and the title of this blog post. Where does that spark for education go? It seems as if every day in my classroom my students always seem to dread the day at hand whether it be in my class(which I have a strong belief my class is a fun learning environment) or another class. The students just seem haphazardly going through the motions of school. After noticing the way, my daughter acts I wanted to know how can we bring the fire back for all students to have the desire to learn.

So began my informal research. I polled my students and asked them what period did they seem to dislike school and not surprising to my thought process. The vast majority of my students told me that the middle school years were the hardest for them, and they didn’t place any blame towards any teacher about their disdain for school they just stated it was possibly puberty, and the changing of their bodies are the reasons why they didn’t like school. It was also a coincidence on the “This American Life” the week after I  began pondering the question. An entire episode of “This American Life”  loaded in my podcast queue became dedicated to Middle School. The reporter interviewed a few students over the subject. Truly it was an enjoyable listen.

Since I have a good generalized thought, the spark of education seems to die out in Middle School how can we combat this problem? Do I have the answer? No, but maybe you or someone you know has done more extensive research than myself might have the answer. From my thought and pondering, I have come to one conclusion. Whether the students are in high, middle, or elementary school, they are still kids. Some in adult bodies but they are still kids, and we need to strive to keep them engaged in our lessons so they can be inspired by educators to continue the spark for education.

Since this topic has come up so many times in the past month, I have seriously thought about writing a book or doing more research on what needs to be done on this topic so more teachers may fight off the blues of students to keep them more engaged.

If you are interested in the Podcast episode mentioned above. You can listen to the “This American Life” episode here.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/449/middle-school

Transparency? How can I be more Transparent?

One of my favorite educational buzz words these days is transparency. Merriam-Websters defines “Transparent: able to be seen through.” I often hear the questions How can we be more transparent as a district, school, or even in our classrooms.

The world we live in today offers more options than ever before Transparency all around us. At almost any given time we know what our favorite actor, musician, or athlete is doing with social media. I often I ask myself just how much information is too much. I have a background in business and marketing, and I understand for you to promote your business you have to sell your product. Just like a business you need to sell your product which is education. You need to let your parents and community members know what is going on in the world of teaching.

For years, many teachers have thought of their classroom as their domain and rarely let anyone in on the daily classroom grind. Traditionally parents would find out about their child’s success or failures through attending parent-teacher conferences, have classwork sent home, or by reading the student’s report card. Parent’s want to know what is going on in their children’s lives; this is not to say they are helicopter parents merely they have a vested interest in their children’s education.

As an educator, you do not have to share everything that happens in your class. I assure you if you share the right information you will build a better relationship with your parents and the local community. Below I will share with you some ways to become more transparent.
Facebook

If you teach young children or if you are a school or district I highly recommend having a Facebook page. I help curate our school’s Facebook page, and we have roughly 30,000 impressions on a given week. Facebook is possibly the best way to get the excellent news of your school out to the public.

Facebook is an easy choice for most teachers wanting to get in on the ground floor of transparency. The social media giant makes it easy for you to set up an individual page for your classroom. Early in my teaching career, I created a Facebook page called Mr.Dunn’s class. Through this form of media, I shared when tests would be, and other quality news. Quickly Facebook became not cool among high shool students, mainly because their parents and grandparents were on this form of social media.

Twitter

Twitter is my favorite form of social media. A colleague of mine referred to Twitter as a quick conversation you have as you pass someone in a store or walking down the hall. I love this analogy because he is correct. If you want just to give short updates or send a link to something you would like your audience to see then Twitter is a great way for you.

I have used Twitter in my class; you can find me @dunnhistory, with Twitter I would use it as a tool for a short message, historical pictures or links I wanted to share with my followers or my students.
Remind

Remind has quickly become one of the most used apps as educators today. With remind you may have parents or students to sign up for your Remind text messages. Texting has become like second nature in the digital age we live in; even my grandparents attempt to text. I like Remind mainly because, you have people who do not or choose not to have access to social media, but they have a cell phone. Text reminders have been the most efficient way I am transparent with my students, and their parents.

Email

On any given day over 250 billion email messages are sent out. Granted, most of them are spam messages. So why would you try to move away from this form? Since the inception of email, it still is the most common way we can communicate with people. How many times have you heard it is in your email? Or have your checked your email? If you are interested in haveing a weekly or monthly mailer, you can. You do not have to be a coder or a web designer for you to use email marketing programs. Companies like MailChimp, Benchmark email, and Vertical Response all have free versions so you can create a mailing list.

http://www.mailchimp.com
http://www.benchmarkemail.com
http://www.verticalresponse.com

School website

The majority of school districts have a website, and each teacher has an assigned web page. My district like most has designated a site to me. On your selected site you may choose to use it as a form of communication of class only things. I use mine as a one-stop shop for all things Mr. Dunn’s class. I have links to study guides notes and other items about my class. I do recommend if you have created content for your course use this platform so your students and parents will have convenient access.

Blog or personal website

If you are not in a district that allows you to have individual sites, I would strongly recommend a blog. Most teachers I am familiar with have some blog whether it be for your class or your personal accounts. Currently, you are reading my blog. Educators have used this process to share the weekly happenings of their class. They can share stories from students as well as pictures of the events from the class.

You can use different types of blogging platforms for your needs the two most popular are Blogger and WordPress. I have used both formats, but I tend to lean more towards WordPress. If you live in the world of Google, you might want to experiment with Blogger first. My first blog was on blogger, but the look and feel of my blog were not what I wanted my audience to experience. I moved to WordPress earlier this year, and I am pleased with the ease and beauty of WordPress.

http://www.blogger.com
http://www.wordpress.com

Class Dojo

Last but not least is Class Dojo. Class Dojo is my favorite application/website for being transparent for elementary aged students. Class Dojo is a very robust platform. On signing up, students may make their avatar it will appear in the class designated by you the teacher. You may communicate the behavior of the student to the parent from this app. Not only can you express student actions you also have access to sending direct messages to the parent, group messages to all the parents, and you may share photos in the class feed. If I were in the elementary setting, I would use this app on a daily basis.
If you are looking for becoming more transparent with your district, school or classroom explore! Play around with all these or other forms of communication. Do not be afraid to learn what might be out there. Remember just a small seed can grow into an enormous tree. Cultivate your students learning.