Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Starting a conversation: K-12 vs College tech uses

Here are a couple of things I remember. I remember becoming acquainted with computers at a very early age. I remember being awe-struck once visiting my dad at his school district office as we saw the enormous computer and how the different terminals could communicate with each other. A person could sit at one, type a message, and another person would receive it at their terminal.  I remember having green-screen Apple computers at the elementary school I attended for second through sixth grades. I don't really remember what we learned during computers.

I graduated from high school 20 years ago. I had started testing out of computer classes in eighth grade. I remember fondly spending some time in middle school playing with Oregon Trail. At home, we had educational games such as Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. My dad had written a math game and my mom had done the music for it. I had been exposed to computers a great deal.

When I went away for my freshman year of college, my uncle drove down to give a computer to me. It was a hand-me-down that I appreciated greatly.It was in college that I got my first email address. The university issued email addresses and we were able to connect with our professors by email. It was exciting. The following year, I returned home and attended school close to home. This time we had something super amazing: Infonet. It was a chat feature that allowed us to connect with fellow students. In fact, a few of us became friends through Infonet and eventually had a group that gathered on weekends for different activities, coffee or pool usually. I completed my BA in 2002 and still used technology minimally. I remember being very excited about the way we could connect with a classroom at another campus, but beyond that I don't think there was much tech use. Yet, as I continued my education, I saw technology grow and grow. It's amazing how far we have come in 20 years. I do more in my classes now than my elementary teachers probably could have ever imagined.

It just feels right to be caught up, using, and coaching with the current technologies. I'm getting closer and closer to being cutting edge. I am helping start new trends at my school and working with other educators on implementing new ideas. This is a fantastic time to be in education!

The high school we primarily feed into is going 1:1 iPads for next year and phasing out textbooks. We are implementing the use of and exposure to Chromebooks. My goal at the Technology Instructor then is to bridge it all together and introduce the students to different technologies and enable them to learn more as they move forward through their educational careers.

Here's the thing. Are colleges keeping up? More importantly, are college students using what they have learned as they continue on in their education?

As we all know, there is still quite a divide among elementary, middle, and high school even still. So, imagine what happens when these students descend on the colleges of their choice. These are students well-versed in social media and surely most (probably still not quite all) have some form of technology in hand on a regular basis. At the very least, I am sure most of them have some form of Smart phone. Still, what happens when they walk into their college classroom?

This seems to vary greatly.

A friend of mine teaches classes at a university in California. She incorporates the use of social media. She has also launched podcasts and has a YouTube channel. Her class is a blended format so they only meet face-to-face a portion of the time in the semester.

My aunt teaches at the graduate level. She does blended formats, online courses, as well as face-to-face classes. As she visited recently, we had a very interesting dinner conversation.

Now, interesting dinner conversations are pretty much the norm. My family always ate dinner together, and we still do. As a kid, I sat with a school administrator at one end of the table and public school teacher (and union member) at the other. We talk about all of the interesting topics that often you're not "supposed" to talk about with people. But, we're family. Education issues, technology, and the like are fairly regular topics for us now especially. So, my aunt was visiting and I talked some about some of the different things that I do in my classroom. I love what we are now capable of doing in the way of instruction. I love that we can go beyond expectations. We can raise the bar in our classrooms.

Yet, here was something that threw me off some. What my aunt is seeing is that many college level students are wanting to see PowerPoint presentations and cloze notes or some variation of that combination. I personally struggled to learn in those sorts of class sessions. I need to get into the material. I need to participate in my learning. I proposed that perhaps she will begin seeing a shift in the graduate level classes

A couple of days after this dinner conversation, I saw that someone I once attended a session with was having the opportunity to visit college-level.  Then I saw something more about college-level. And then something more. As I sat down to write this, I saw one more thing.

So, here are my questions:
What happens to our students once they start college?
Is there something that changes between undergrad and graduate level work?
Do they really like it or is it what they know? As in, it's comfortable to them.

We all know magic happens just outside of the comfort zone, so do we need to push the college students farther out of their comfort zone?

What are you seeing and hearing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet them out with #collegetechdivide

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Let the story continue;

A few weeks ago, I was browsing a social media network when I stumbled across something a friend had shared. It was an article about Project Semicolon. I read it and immediately shared it. A few days later, I saw another article. Then another. In the meantime, I had already scheduled my appointment.

My tiny but mighty semicolon is small enough to hide, but present enough for me to remember it is there and share it with folks when and where and how I choose. Mostly, it's just one of those things I felt I needed to do. For me. So, I did. (More on this in a moment.)

In the days following, Project Semicolon gained even more momentum on social media. It spread like wildfire. People started sharing their own stories. Then, it came up in education circles on Twitter. I was pleasantly surprised.

I have always been excited to work in education. I have done many different things in my career as an educator, only getting my multi-subject teaching credential about three years ago. I have been proud to come from a family of educators. I have been proud of my students. I have been excited to learn from and share experiences with other educators and the best thing I have done is started using Twitter to connect with other educators. Today, though, I am proud to be a part of a group of educators that are helping to bring more awareness to mental health issues. I am honored to count them among my peers.

#semicolonEDU is going strong right now. Today. At this very moment. Seriously, read the stream associated with the hashtag. It's amazing. Some are sharing tattoos. Some are drawing Sharpie semicolons on themselves. Whatever and however they do it, they are coming together in the education circle for something that needs our attention.

As educators, we will work with peers struggling with various forms of mental health issues, some of whom battle behind closed doors, others who will at least try to share bits of their stories, and still others who are choosing to share their stories completely and openly and honestly. We will work with students who suffer with various forms of mental health issues. Some as "simple" as anxiety. Some far more severe. We will have conferences with parents who have their struggles. We engage the world on a daily basis and there has often been a stigma attached to mental health issues no matter how big or small. The current statistic is that about 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Every day. These could be former students, parents or grandparents of current students. They could be our friends or family. And that statistic is just for veterans. Suicide has been reported to be the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the United States. These two statistics alone should lead to a very open discussion.

Ten years ago this October, my cousin chose to end his own life. This was not a distant cousin. This was a cousin who was like a brother to me. In fact, he had lived with us for a few years in high school. I saw a post recently:
Suicide doesn't take away the pain, but it gives it to someone else.
In fact, in some ways it increases the pain because it passes it on to so many. For ten years, not a day goes by that I don't think about my cousin and the decision he made. He chose to end his story.

Later a person very close to me threatened suicide on more than one occasion. I am thankful that his story continues, but it definitely had to go in the direction of a new chapter.

A parent battles PTSD.

A child struggles with anxiety.

I experience anxiety, in part related to Fibromyalgia.

A little over three years ago, a local high student ended her story. An active, involved, high-achieving student. But, as has become painfully obvious since Robin Williams' suicide, all the successes in the world don't necessarily bring health and happiness.

So, let's use our semicolons to keep the story going. There is so much more to write, so much more to share, so much more to do. We can make a huge difference. We can also stop and listen. Last fall, my son and I participated in a local Out of the Darkness walk. So, this semicolon trend is good and I hope will keep going, but we can show our support in other ways, too. Check here to see if there is a walk near you.

I have a life preserver magnet that I keep in my classroom. It is associated with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can learn more about them here.

I am incredibly thankful that @thenerdyteacher helped get the dialog more open and the momentum for Project Semicolon going even stronger. I am proud to stand with you and others. I love seeing educators joining together and discussing real issues such as this. Let's keep this going.

Share your story. Listen to others. Be open. Be real;

July 14, 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

A new day, a new Edventure

After a wonderful, albeit short, trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park, I returned home to begin the next transition. Of course, we leave next for Pinnacles National Park and have to prepare for that Edventure, but there is something more I have started working on this week.
Instagram post 7/13/15 #FindYourPark

Feeling inspired
I really like being an educator. I tend to think of myself as a facilitator of learning and I recognize that I always have more to learn. My summer reading list includes three books:
Teach Like a Pirate (Dave Burgess)
He's the Weird Teacher (Doug Robertson)
and a more handbook-style book on Google Classroom...

I am in a transitional stage at my school. After two years as the middle school science teacher, I am moving into the technology lab where I will instruct all K-8 students and offer EdTech support to my colleagues. This comes as our school transitions to becoming a GAFE school. Big changes and lots to look forward to in the year ahead. But first, I had to completely close out myself as the science teacher. I thought I had done that. I spent extra time following the end of the school year packing up my things and making the move from the science classroom to the technology lab. Some things I packed up and brought home. And, there they sat. And sat. And sat some more. Until this morning.

I realized it was time to move forward. So, I sat down, went through the things and sorted what I need at home (I'm a mom, too, so of course I'm a 24/7 educator), what I can pack away, and what needs to just go for good. I sat down with my three bags and a single, small box. I know there will be a time when I will need these things again. So, packed into this box are some of my favorite science items including tweezers that I purchased recently, three different types of Slinky, and two rubber ducks. How cool is that? I have fun stuff in my science collection and they all had great lessons to go along with them. I bought my first full-sized Slinky in YEARS to incorporate into our P-waves/S-waves lessons. The kids had fun and learned great science at the same time. I pack away a few items, but what I can never and will never pack away is my desire to do right by the students and teach them well.

Guess who's coming to class...
By a few weeks into the school year last year, my seventh graders were never quite sure who would be teaching them that day. I had started doing different things to grab their attention and really hook them. One of those things was trying different accents. It worked so well for that group of students and I got more out of them because of it. Here's the best part...I got more out of them because they were getting more out of the class. They were engaged and learning and exploring. This class was so excited about what we would do each day and it helped me find even more motivation to do more of what I was doing.

Back to the reading list. I started Teach Like a Pirate last week and I am taking my time with it. I am using a pencil as a bookmark, in fact. I am making notes and stars and underlining. As I am reading I am finding that I am on the right track and I can keep doing what I am doing. I struggled with this position change for next year, but the more I look at it and the more I explore new ideas, the more excited I get about it. I will miss my science classes terribly, but now I can do different things that will continue to support their learning. And, I may just show up in costume one day. Definitely I will keep some of my accents up to date. As I read through the Rapport section yesterday, I got a huge idea and started working on it. In case a student is reading, I won't share it just yet. Though I will say, the door to the technology lab will be a portal to another world where amazing learning takes place.

Early this morning I read what Dave Burgess wrote at just the right time. It was exactly what I needed.
"It's not supposed to be easy -- it's supposed to be worth it."

And, it is. Every bit of what I do is worth it. I have struggled and had lessons where I fell flat on my face (not literally...well, most of the time). I have had lessons that were among some of the most successful things I have ever experienced. I show students that it's ok to try and fail and try again. And I show them how we learn from each other. Next school year, I will begin developing a STEAM fair, I will work on developing a Makerspace, I will seek out more new ideas, we will have an actual newspaper, students will run the yearbook, we will develop video and we may even try our hands at a Podcast. Amazing things are happening. I read over the weekend this:
Sometimes God brings time of TRANSITION to create TRANSFORMATION
Regardless of your personal beliefs, there is something in there for everyone. We can take times of transition and transform ourselves, our teaching, our students and beautiful things can and will happen.

I attended an art high school where I spent two years studying theater. I often put on plays, skits, puppet shows, whatever I could to perform for my family throughout my youth and, still as I read my book this morning, I nodded in agreement. I am a creative person, but that does not mean it all comes easy to me. It takes lots of hard work. It takes networking. It takes asking for help when I need it. It takes sharing ideas. It takes successes and failures and trial and error. But, by golly, I am going to rock my new world in the technology lab next year. What are you going to do?

Side note, as I sat down to write this, I saw something on Twitter that fit perfectly on the #SlowchatED and was impressed out how everything came together today. This was the post I was supposed to write today. You'll get more about the outdoors EDventures soon. Oh....and a video idea is brewing. Good times! 

Happy Monday, folks!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Gearing up for the next Edventure

Last summer, I traveled up the center of the state (California) to Lassen Volcanic National Park. I took along two video cameras and captured some fantastic video while exploring the park, particularly the Bumpass Hell Trail.

This summer, I will return to Lassen with an additional video camera (the GoPro I added to my collection this spring) and try out a different trail or two.

Step one: Check all equipment. All cameras will be charged ahead of time. Last year, I had one major glitch. I had charged one of the cameras the night before only to have it turn itself on in my backpack on the drive. I managed to capture hours of the car ride and very little Lassen. Everything will be charged tonight and checked upon arriving at our destination tomorrow (a lodge with electricity). Additionally, one of my camera requires batteries, so I will put in new batteries and pack backups.

Step 2: Send out reminders. I use social media to reach out to students when we're off from school (as well as communicating with them during school). Students have been invited to participate in the Lassen hike. I will do one last social media blitz tonight. Once I arrive at the lodge, I will be slightly off the grid. No WiFi, minimal cell service. Although for this particular Edventure, I suspect little to no involvement from the students, the use of social media helps them feel connected to it. When we return in the fall and they see the video footage, they will have more of a connection to it than they would otherwise. Voila! The world is their classroom!

Step 3: Go. See. Capture.

Finally, I have elected to do something a little different this year. Since I am shifting into a technology instruction role, I will bring more of the raw footage into the classroom and I will have students work with some of its editing. If you want to see some of last year's Lassen footage, take a look at my previous post Taking it to the Next Level.

As an aside, I always check the weather ahead of any trip. Last year, it was in the 80s and sunny. It looks as if it will be a completely different experience this year. Turns out, thunderstorms are in the forecast. I will pack accordingly and thankfully, the GoPro has its protective waterproof case and my smaller video camera is waterproof as well, just in case it rains.

Lassen this week, Pinnacles next
In the middle of the month, I will pack up and do a similar trip to Pinnacles National Park. This will be a different sort of experience though. This one will be even more off the grid and I've elected for camping instead of staying in a lodge/cabin. Stay tuned.

I lava this!