Final Day of ICE 2015

When I tell you that this year’s conference has been tremendous…WHEW!  I’ve gotten so many nuggets of wisdom that I can’t wait to try in my classroom and beyond.

My battery drained before I could post about the workshop I attended yesterday afternoon.  While the presenter taught high school, there were a lot of things in her presentation that could be adapted to younger grades.  The best find from that session was a site called Video Not.es.  This site allows you to watch videos and take notes at the same time.  I’m not sure of its value to high school students, but graduate and doctoral students will find it to be a lifesaver!  I used it last night to do MY homework!

My first session today is: Five Fantastic Features of Formative Assessment and Supporting Tech Tools.  This session started with a pre-assessment that then took my responses and created a note-taking sheet using Google documents.  That document was automatically e-mailed to me using autoCrat, a Google add-on.  Goobric is another add-on that can be used with Doctopus to create rubrics and provide feedback. Doctopus is a virtual copy machine that copies and sends a document that you can send out, have students complete, and then you can store the document to your Google Drive.

Teaching as Art: Sparking Curiosity and Facilitating the Hero’s Journey

This is the 3rd session I’ve sat in today at the 2015 Illinois Computing Educators Conference.  Ramsey Musallam is the presenter.

Educator vs. Entertainer…which one are we, or is there a choice?  As educators, we often put information before application. We need to flip those two, and draw a two-way arrow between them.  It’s a constant exchange of application and information. In movies with great teachers (Good Will Hunting, The Karate Kid), the teacher does not appear until 25 minutes into the movie or greater.  We do not need to come first for learning to take place.  Think of ways to get students to develop questions before lecture/teaching takes place.  Issuing challenges is one method of doing this.  And…you do not have to provide the answer!  It’s ok to leave things open-ended.  That adds curiosity.

Cognitive load theory of multimedia learning focuses on motivation and cognitive focus.  It helps teachers to find ways to organize task to maximize learning.  It explores ways to balance curiosity and information.  Withholding just the right amount of information can peak curiosity and increase learning.

Use Google Docs to allow students to anonymously evaluate your class.

Global Collaboration: 2nd Workshop of Day 2

Before I begin, I want to share that ICE has created Google Docs that are being updated all day with notes from the presenters as well as attendees from the many sessions each day.  Be sure to check them out!

Global Collaboration deals with our favorite C-word: collaboration.  We’re always trying to find ways to work together, be it teacher-to-teacher, student-to-student, or a combination of ways.  The purposes for collaboration are varied, as our its outcomes.  Begin the process by reflecting on what your desired outcome is.  Discuss what it means to collaborate, and foster opportunities for students to collaborate within the classroom before going global.  This includes establishing student-created classroom norms.  Use of circling, an aspect of restorative justice, can be useful in collaborative reflecting as it relates to student behavior after a collaborative moment.

We don’t necessarily need more technology in our classrooms.  Let’s explore ways to use what me do have more efficiently and effectively.  Don’t always feel like you as the teacher have to be the expert.  It is perfectly o.k. to let the students use technology they are most comfortable with and knowledgeable of.

Tackk allows students to collaborate in the creation of a single-page website.

Animoto for educators is another collaborative animation tool.

Kidblog is great for student collaboration on a classroom blog.

Looking for ways to get started?  Check out Projects by Jen, The Global Read Aloud, The Traveling Rhinos, The Digital Human Library, Skype in the Classroom, a hashtag collaboration on Twitter.

What can collaboration be used for?

  • An open-ended question
  • Discussion around a common topic
  • A challenge
  • A presentation
  • A contest
  • A community
  • Create your own way

Build your own network of administrators and teachers.  There’s tons of existing groups on social media.  Share ideas/opportunities for collaboration.  Be vulnerable yourself.  Try the activities you want your students to try, and share your successes and failures.

Copy & Paste is Dead: My Notes from Day 2 of the 2015 ICE Conference

Today, I am in a workshop about student creation for assessment.  These assessments are flexible and can be used as formative or summative assessments.

Common Craft Videos: 2-3 minute videos that explain a topic or tell a story.  The images are designed and created by students.  Here’s some parameters for setting these up in your classroom.

Other options for video project creation are described in the presentation.

Tired of PowerPoint and having presentations “read” to you instead of presented?  Try Ignite!

Some things to consider in advance:

  • Setting up your classroom for effective video recording/presentation.
  • Having access to supplies – magazines, paper, crayons, markers, etc.
  • This does not have to be expensive.  Use what you have on hand to create these videos.
  • Use technology for the feedback, too.  Google Docs can be a powerful and useful tool for this.

Flexibility is key, but with parameters.  Be sure to plan for and allow student choice.

How to Prepare for Your Teacher Evaluation

In a recent post, I shared the view point of the person at the forefront of teacher evaluations, Charlotte Danielson, regarding how administrators should handle the post-conference piece of the teacher evaluation.  I also posted a contrasting story of a teacher who left the profession after only teaching five months because (amongst other things) he received an “Unsatisfactory” rating on his evaluation.  These two stories leave us to wonder:  how do we get from “Unsatisfactory” to the type of professional dialogue and development Danielson shares in her video?  Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid the “dog-and-pony” show – your evaluation day is not the day to try out a new lesson, game, or anything else that you’ve never done before.  Trust me…I speak from experience!  Everything that you never would imagine could happen, will happen because you’re using a method that has not been tried and tested by you!  I remember trying to play a Math game during my first evaluation.  I made the game up the night before and it went over really well when I practiced it with my oldest daughter at home.  In my classroom of 21 children, it did not go as well.  The students started making up their own rules in the middle of the game.  It was absolute chaos!  Needless to say, the evaluation didn’t go so well.  What I learned from that day is to stick to my strengths.  So what if the administrator doesn’t see you that day playing a game or doing some other “fun” activity.  If they’re doing regular walk-throughs or classroom visits, they’ll get to see the variety you offer at another time.  Make sure you have evidence that these activities do exist and are available in your classroom.
  • Realize that there’s no perfect teacher Like the “bad teacher” in the article, I also am a career changer.  I was used to getting good reviews in the years I worked in the corporate sector, so I was expecting to come in and run my classroom like a business and get stellar reviews.  A classroom and a cubical, or a classroom and a conference room are two different playing fields.  Don’t come in Day 1 expecting to have it all together.  You probably won’t have it all together by Day 175 either!  Know that in the process of that first year, you will have your fair share of ups and downs; and your first (and probably your second, and maybe even third or fourth) review won’t state that you’re Proficient or Distinguished.  Even veteran teachers have room for growth!  If your administrator labels you as “Unsatisfactory,” do not pack up your bat and ball and run off the field!  Hang in there!  If a mentor is not provided for you, pair up with a veteran teacher in the building that you respect and ask them to assist you.  Note: a veteran teacher may be younger than you!  That’s fine.  Expertise has no age requirements.  Take advantage of professional development opportunities that address the area(s) of greatest concern or weakness.  Also, during some of your free time, go observe in other classrooms to see what works for other teachers.  Teaching is the one profession where borrowing others methods and ideas is acceptable!
  • Develop a survival strategy – I admit, when you first see that “Unsatisfactory” on your evaluation, it seems as though every word on the form is a dagger that’s repeatedly stabbing you.  You begin to question if this is the career for you, and like the teacher in the article, you may want to leave.  If teaching is really your passion, do not give up.  Develop a strategy for survival.  In my case, I did not sign my evaluation immediately (another tip: know your rights).  I asked if I could take it to ponder over it before signing/responding.  This gave me time to talk it over with my mentor.  My mentor had observed me teach a few times and was familiar with my strengths and weaknesses.  She helped me to take the negatives from my evaluation and develop a list of five measurable and obtainable goals to work on between my first evaluation and the second evaluation.  When I returned to my administrator, I presented him with the signed copy of my evaluation, as well as the things I planned to work on over the four months until my next formal evaluation.  Then, I went to work.  Weekly classroom meetings helped to establish mutual respect and rapport in the classroom. Consistent discipline and consequences, along with a set of expectations (not rules) that were created by the students, helped to establish classroom management.  Games weren’t my strong-suit, so I stayed away from them during my instructional time and let the kids play them in small groups after we finished testing on Friday.  This allowed them to make up their own rules (like the did in my first evaluation) and it be acceptable.  What did work for interaction was peer-to-peer learning.  So I partnered the kids, or put them in groups of no more than 3, and this allowed them time to interact without their being complete and utter chaos, and me time to provide small-group instruction.  I started looking at the flyers in my mailbox more seriously and attended a few professional development workshops to learn additional strategies to apply in the classroom; not just for behavior, but subject-based strategies, too!  And, I visited other classrooms and took tips and ideas from other teachers.

By my spring evaluation, there was a complete turn-around.  Was I “Proficient?”  No, but I was no longer “Unsatisfactory.”  Furthermore, I was no longer looking for a way out.  I felt as though I could make it through a second year, and beyond.

I’ve gone through my fair share of evaluations over the years.  I also have my Administrative License (Type 75).  Going through the program to obtain that also helped me to see evaluations from a different perspective; that of the evaluator.  The teacher evaluation should not be a weapon, but a tool to assist and develop good teaching practices.  Use your evaluation this fall to sharpen your tools and improve your craft.

Good Luck!  Feel free to share your questions and/or comments regarding evaluations in the Comment section below, or e-mail us regarding specific questions or concerns.