Sunday, March 27, 2016

Otherwise known as T-WOW

I may appear to be an odd one, but I actually like Mondays. Mondays are generally good days. They are fresh starts. They provide a long, but wonderful day to kick things up and how they set the tone for the week ahead is entirely up to us. But really, I like Mondays because Monday nights bring TOSA-chats! I love these chats. I only started them a couple of months ago, but the people are wonderful, the information is awesome, and the ideas are ever-flowing. It's truly beautiful. Then, last week, I had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite TOSAs. In that, something struck me.
"Are you a TOSA?"
"Well....I'm only a sorta-TOSA."

In many ways, I function similarly to my TOSA counterparts, but I am not an actual TOSA. I enter a classroom, I write lesson plans for my kindergarten through eighth grade students while also coaching my colleagues, designing PD sessions, learning new things, and planning/co-ordinating our upcoming STEAM Fair.

I started thinking about the #sorrynotsorry that you see periodically on social media. That got me to thinking, perhaps I am a #TOSAnotTOSA. I'm a teacher. My assignment is certainly special. I have had opportunities I never would have imagined and I love the ways I get to bring things back to our school. That's it!! I thought back to my trip in February for the Baldwin County Alabama school visits. It was there that I wrote my "teacher without walls" blog post. I am a #TOSAnotTOSA, otherwise known as a #TWOW.

Let me tell you a little about some of the highlights of being a T-WOW.

Most days, I start by pushing a Chromebook cart into a classroom. I work with the grade level teachers to outline what we will do. A few things we keep pretty standard week-to-week. We begin with some supplemental math activities. With the primary grades, I focus on keyboarding, strategy, and coding. The students are receiving support for math and ELA within these activities as well as with the specific supplemental activities we use (Sadlier-Oxford Math and IXL). With the intermediate grades, we do a nice blend of supplemental activities and guiding them through introductions to some wonderful tools. Additionally, I work with the grade level teachers to team-teach and/or to align an activity to something they are currently learning.

For example, last fall, the fourth grade teacher did a great lesson that included science, history, reading,  and writing. We worked together to incorporate some of the new technology available and to use this as an opportunity to introduce it to the students. I introduced the fourth grade class to Google Classroom where I had the technology assignment that went along with the lemons lesson. For my part, I started by teaching the difference between search and research. We had a great discussion then went into Google to search for information where the students then began researching the information they needed for their reports. Another lesson I did with the fourth grade was a variation on my virtual hike lesson. You can read here about how I enhanced a bone identification lab for my seventh grade science class last year. For fourth grade, I stepped back just notch. We went on the virtual hike then they completed an assignment in Google Classroom. We then did a second virtual hike and related assignment where they compared the two hikes. I originally worked with this class when they were in second grade. There are students in this class that respond really, really well to project-based learning. I found that to still be true (no real surprise there). The best part was seeing some students who just jumped right in and who were the first to complete the related activities for the virtual hikes. This allowed some students who normally take a little longer with assignments to get fired up and knock our socks off with their enthusiasm for completing these assignments. The other great part of doing this was that I worked with the students during their Chromebook time which allowed me to model for their teacher different ways to incorporate technology into the learning process. Basically, I taught a lesson for the students that doubled as a coaching session for the teacher. WOW! T-WOW, in fact!

Currently, I am introducing third and fourth graders to Google MyMaps. I worked with seventh grade just before Christmas with MyMaps as well. Seventh graders created their own Santa Trackers. They had an option of creating it fully or creating a model of how they envisioned their Santa Tracker. They viewed existing Santa Trackers, I modeled some of what could be done with MyMaps, and awesomeness ensued.
What I've started this spring with third and fourth graders is a little different. The third grade class has had their introduction and the students started placing markers, adding a photo, writing descriptions. After the break, they will have a chance to create their own map and show one of the trails they have studied this year. Their classroom teacher will cover some more information as far as stops made on the trails so the students can include more details on their trail maps. The fourth graders have had a chance to incorporate MyMaps into what we have worked on with their MyHero projects. I created a map and they have gone in and mapped a significant location, such as birthplace, for their hero. Next stop: Google Tour Builder. Since collaboration (shared editing) for Tour Builder projects is not yet an option, they will work in small groups of three or four and create Heroes Tours. They will submit the main part of their MyHero projects just after the break and then on to Tour Builder we go! T-WOW!

As I wrote about in  February post, Google Classroom has allowed me to start (and moderate as needed) classroom discussions even from 2,700 miles from my classroom. It is time for me to introduce this to more of my colleagues, too. As I arrived in town for the CUE Conference, I corresponded some with the colleague who would cover my classes. I sent a screenshot of a Google Classroom assignment so she could see what the students would see. "How do I get this to the students," she asked. "You don't have to," I replied. (That's the short version, of course.) We are seeing things unlike ever before and we all certainly have a lot to learn, share, and experience, teachers and students alike. T-WOW!

The fifth graders have worked on podcasting this year. Their creations are fantastic and I will spend a portion of my Spring Break working on getting some more of them uploaded to Spreaker (great tool in itself!). Recently, I started reaching out to podcasters to come into the classroom and speak to the students. Here's the thing, the visiting podcasters come into the classroom via Google Hangouts. (My first podcast speaker was over 300 miles away!) This has excited the students and watching them learn from it has been amazing! Google Hangouts offers opportunities beyond anything I ever could have imagined back when I was a student. Though, I do attribute my love for breaking down the walls of the room to things like my third grade teacher allowing us to listen to the Challenger launch (1986) on the radio. T-WOW!

I use Instagram to communicate information to students and families, but also to share special moments and celebrate accomplishments. This has been a wonderfully positive thing for all of us.  I am thankful that my last year's seventh graders helped me get started. The one thing I would like to do more of with Instagram is have students more involved with posting on the @RemScience one again. I think the students sharing some of what we're doing is even more important and allowing them to share through their eyes is something that will benefit all of us.

As I sit here on Easter afternoon, finally wrapping up this blog post, there is one last T-WOW item I would like to share with you. Our school is on Spring Break. Science Olympiad is next Saturday and I am coaching for the TechTime event. I live about an hour from my students. I could call this week a loss as far as preparation goes or I could use a great tool! I choose the tool! We will meet using Google Hangouts this week to finalize their preparation for the event. (These are two of the aforementioned fifth graders, by the way.) We did a trial Hangout Thursday evening and I think we're all set to go. They initiate the call. For our meetings, we set the time together. T-WOW!

We can create classrooms without walls and some can take it a step further: become teachers without walls.

I'm #SorryNotSorry that I'm a #TOSAnotTOSA otherwise known as a #TWOW!

Please share some of your WOW moments in the comments section!

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