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.

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Edcamp can come to your school too!

I am an avid user of Twitter for my PLN, and I adore the connections I have made by using this form of social media. I have been on Twitter since its inception, but until three years ago I never used it as a tool to better formulate my teaching. I began hearing about Edcamps/unconferences in various twitter chats, and it sparked my interest. Unfortunately, there were not any that were close, or I could not get free on a Saturday to participate. This spring I told myself I was going to go to my first Edcamp. When Samantha Bates moderator of #tnedchat formed Edcamp MidTenn. I was ready to go to my first.

I was so excited; I was going to my first Edcamp, and I was not sure what to expect.  Fearful of going alone I took my brother in law who teaches with me to Tullahoma, Tennessee where the event was.  I left amazed at what I had learned. This information had to be brought back to my executive principal because my thoughts were we could do this at our school. He watched videos on what an Edcamp was he assured me this is something he had been wondering about he just did not know the format in which the PD could be in.

Currently, we are scheduled to have our Edcamp Style PD planned for June the 8th I have sent out a Google form so the fellow teachers may submit if they would like to facilitate or just show up. (a link will be at the bottom of the post) I sent this out because only two of us in our building have been to an Edcamp, so I wanted the fellow faculty members to understand the concept before the day of the event. There have been many well thought up responses for this, and I am excited to see how the day will turn out. I will keep everyone posted on our progress as it develops.

Here is the Google form I sent out.

https://docs.google.com/a/warrenschools.com/forms/d/1rScp251oOFGyY7b8gumrTUxA-qnPH4mHR0rk6OtCh7M/viewform

 

Wonderful One! Larry Bell

At the beginning of the summer, teachers look down at their professional development list. I like most wondered what benefit I would have from the training that I will receive. This summer I had the privilege to meet Larry Bell. Larry is a thirty year plus veteran teacher. Larry still educates children, but not in the classroom. Larry has taken his talents of teaching to the teachers and empowered teachers to strive for the success of every student. One of my favorite quotes Larry said during the training was “On your worst day on the job, you are still some child’s best hope.” Larry emphasized the importance of making connections with your students as well as his “12 Powerful Words” and UNRA(A)VEL. More about these later. I have always been a person who understands how connecting with your students makes a huge difference. I love how he uses his “7,3,1” method during class time, seven times during class praise your students, three times during class brag on your students and one time during class NEVER accept their excuses but do it lovingly. Larry made a lasting effect on me; his message was assuring I was still doing it right by my children.

Larry Bell and his “12 Powerful Words” are exactly what it says. These twelve words are words can be found on state test questions or ACT/SAT questions. Your students might have heard these before, but they may have not totally understood the meaning. Question? How many times have you given a test question to a student and they not answer it correctly, but if you tell them what the question is wanting they can answer you every time. By training a student with these words, they will have a better understanding of what the question is asking. This strategy will help the student perform on the test better. Some of these words are: evaluate, infer, analyze, compare, contrast, etc… These words may feel like they are simple to understand although teachers are college educated and have heard and used these words a few times in their years. Our students are not, with some of their backgrounds we are happy they are just making it to school. The “12 Powerful Words” help even the playing field for our students on testing questions.

Larry Also unraveled to us UNRA(A)VEL a reading and writing strategy for students. By using the acronym, students can look at the passage and understand the writers point he/she is trying to get across. With more of our testing “common core” centered it is important that the student understands how to pull the information out of the text and answer the questions given.

This year my school has bought into the “12 Powerful words” and UNRA(A)VEL. We hope these strategies will help our students perform better on their state mandated tests, and also help them as they continue their education. I am very thankful of my school district to bring Mr. Larry Bell to us this summer. He was such an inspiration to myself and other colleagues. Larry is scheduled also to spend some time with us this fall, which I can not wait for it again.

More information about Larry Bell and his passion towards students you can find them at
http://www.larry-bell.com Also, if you would like to know more from my perspective you can contact me via twitter @jacobdunn

Twitter, a PLC?

Most people in the education world have now heard of the acronym PLC. PLC stands for Professional Learning Community, and its design is to help teachers collaborate with other teachers who teach the same grade level or the same subject. This is a magnificent way for teachers to share ideas and teaching strategies with other teachers to better their teachings. We have started PLC’s in our school district this year and I do enjoy them. My fellow social studies teachers can talk about what goes well in our class and see what is going well in theirs. This is a great way to have ideas bounced off different people to see if they have tried a certain teaching style or not

You probably know about Twitter but they really don’t know what it is or how it is used. Twitter is considered a micro-blogging site where you are given 140 characters to let your “followers” know what you are doing. Some people still use it to inform about their day to day lives but others have chose to use Twitter as a content creation/consumption media. Twitter has turned into the ultimate news source for many people including myself. I use this as my primary news source, because people are breaking news as it happens instead of waiting for a newscast. It can also be used for information I love how people share blogs and other information about their trade or interests.

How can Twitter be used as a PLC? With Twitter you can get tons of information about education, and what is going on in education. So how do you get this info? You need to sign up, then at the top of the screen click on “who to follow”. Since this is an EDtech blog, I would suggest you follow someone in the education field. Just type in Education in the search and you will find quite a few to follow such as @usnewseducation or @ED_outreach. To have a PLC, you will need people for ideas, feedback and support. Some of the people I follow are @perrywiseman, @dianeravitch, or @teachpaperless. These people, I have found very valuable to my online PLC by the information they share, and there is a wealth of it. If you want to expand your knowledge about any subject, I would suggest you use Twitter and “follow” on.

Personalized Whiteboards revisited

Most of you have read my blog post about my purchasing the personalized white boards. I am please to let you know that after two years of using so my students have shown much improvement. Last year I was able to have student growth at the top of my department. I enjoy using these and it is a great questioning tool for your evaluations too.

        

Personalized Whiteboards

Most of you have thought about personalized white boards, and I have thought about them as well. So this past year I decided I was going to make the plunge. I was needing a new way to assess my students every day for retention, but I didn’t really know how or what I needed to do. In a traditional classroom it is difficult to know if every child is getting what you are teaching. There is always the one student who is always willing to answer the question, and you do have students that will answer if you call on them. I just needed a way to reach all my students. So one day my wife had looked on Pinterest and found some ideas, and the personalized white board really stuck out to me.  I purchased a classroom set of thirty from Amazon.com for around $30 that is around a dollar a board. I went with these due to the cost, and as a teacher we all know how much we spend in our own money every year.

 I took this year to see how my students would respond to the boards. I teach high school juniors and introducing something like this could be very tricky. They might feel that this is very elementary or just might not like doing it because it doesn’t look cool. These were some of the issues I had come in contact with when I introduced them. Once I assured them this will benefit them they were more willing to use them.  I used the white boards as a way to assess my student’s almost everyday. This gave me a great ability to see who was learning and what they did know. This also allows myself to change the way I teach while throughout the lesson. There were times I would go without using the boards to see if there is a difference in the learning. Students would not seem to be interested when we didn’t use them, I feel they felt they could be invisible again if they didn’t use them. I can assure you this does make students more accountable throughout the lesson and scores were higher when I used the boards than when I didn’t.
 I do highly recommend if you can afford whiteboards to use them. These are great tools you can use everyday no matter what subject you teach. I have talked to some of the math teachers in my school and they have considered using this in their classroom as well. I hope you all enjoy the insights I have come across and I hope these will help make decisions for your classroom.

Here is a link where I found my whiteboards.  http://www.amazon.com/NEOPlex-Student-Laptop-Erase-Marker/dp/B001EW9I4W/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1371149616&sr=8-4&keywords=personal+whiteboard 

Remind 101

As most of you all know I have not been writing about my goings on lately, or reviewing an app for the iPad. Part of it is my changing of subjects and part of it is laziness. I hope most of you most of you all will understand. Especially if you are a teacher trying to do all new lessons ready while want to write.
            Most of you all know I love technology and one of my newest favorite websites/ apps for all devices is the remind 101 app. This service is free, and which teacher doesn’t like free. What is wonderful about this service is the students or parents do not have direct access to your phone number. As a teacher of high school students this is a great advantage. This will allow you to keep your students or parents up to date with you feeling you are getting to close to your students.
            How does it work?
            When you sign up for remind 101 you are assigned a phone number and a log in code such as this

           

This will allow all of the students to subscribe to your text messages. The ease of use with this product is great. If you can type a message you can use this. You can also organize the subscriptions to classes. I teach two different subjects so this feature works out amazingly.
Remind 101 only works if the students will subscribe. Even though I have haven’t had 100% participation from this program, I do have around 98%. When I presented this to my students the majority of them were really open to this idea. We have 7 class periods at out school and it is hard for all of our students to remember all of their assignments or if they are going to have a test tomorrow. Remind 101 makes it easy for you and your students to keep up with your class’s entire goings on.
I have noticed the student’s who have received the text messages have performed a lot better on tests and other assignments than the ones who do not have it. This gives them the nudge they need in order for them to study.
            I have fallen in love with this service, the guys at remind 101 have hit a home run. I highly recommend Remind 101 for anyone who is a teacher. I think you will find it very helpful with your classroom.

Back again

Hello again everyone it has been such a long time since something has been posted on my blog. I hope you all will forgive me for not posting. I will try and update the page as much as I possibly can. I due tend to change the layout a little and will be bringing more insight to just teaching than just teaching and tech.

Jacob Dunn

Show Me for iPad

Hey guys, so I finally got an iPad. My school system is letting me borrow, and I love it. There are so many apps out there to choose from. I am going to try and review some of them for you all. One of the apps that I am using now is called the show me app.
From the website: ShowMe is a global learning community – a place where anyone can learn or teach anything.”

Show me allows you to draw on the screen and record your voice at the same time. It also has the ability take a photo that you have taken or have saved and can draw over it. I have used this in my class to describe how the rain shadow effect works, and other geography related topics. Not only can you save your own videos and show them to your students, you can share your videos with others on the show me website. Show Me is basically an on demand learning service. I recommend the show me app for all teachers who have an iPad this will help you give your students a better visual of the topics you have discussed. With show me it is a great tool that you can use to educate your students or other people around the world with just your iPad.
Here is a basic video on how it works.

Getting Creative

Today we have started out projects for the semester exam. Instead of testing the students with a formal assessment I thought it would be fun for the kids to research a country and instead of reporting on it, I decided they were going to make a commercial for it. Since most of my students do not have access to a video camera I will let them use a power point or make a brochure instead. Although some of my students are really excited about creating a video. Some have asked me about making a video over war torn Iraq and having a faux battle scene. I too am excited for them. Hopefully if they are willing I might put some on youtube for everyone to see. I will keep everyone posted.