At the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF), our mission is to help students learn and succeed by providing school supplies to kids who need them most nationwide. We are so thankful to be working with Voyager Sopris Learning for a third year!
students surprised by new backpacksAs the senior director of Development and Corporate Partnerships, I have the opportunity to work with Voyager Sopris Learning™ and other companies who want to change lives through the gift of school supplies. Many of the boys and girls we help have never received anything new in their lives, so getting a backpack filled with brand-new supplies is that much more exciting. Apart from the backpacks we distribute, KINF maintains 34 resource centers around the country, where teachers can go to get new notebooks, folders, and whatever other supplies their students need.
The month of May has arrived, and whether you’re merry or at the brink of sending out a Mayday, the end of the school year is upon us.
If you are in the midst of state testing or working with students on culminating projects, you may not have had time to notice that today kicks off Teacher Appreciation Week. We hope that you have felt appreciated the entire school year for doing what could be the toughest (and most rewarding) job on the planet.
Reading opens the world. There are, unfortunately, some students to whom the world remains largely on lockdown.
These struggling readers present unique challenges to the classroom teacher. The one-size-fits-all idea often succumbs to the one-size-fits-some reality as unique situations and struggles reveal themselves. Students are not perfect copies of one another, and neither are the challenges they face. As teachers, we know this, and yet, often, we apply and re-apply the same methods for “fixing” these problems.
rsz_students-outdoor-backpackWhy? Because, sometimes, we’re stumped.
And sometimes, we’re not seeing the gaps that need to be filled.
I’m an early childhood educator. One of the most important early literacy components for me has always been phonological awareness. Why? Because I see the real-life connection that it presents for our youngest learners: the spoken word. Language acquisition begins here. Babies start with it. All of those cute dadadadada’s and mamamama’s are them putting words to concrete objects and, later, abstract thinking.
The end of the school year brings excitement, events, and energy. It is also the time for summative state assessments. Regardless of your opinion on the validity, value, or necessity of mandated state testing, the reality is it is a standardized measure of what is being accomplished in our profession, and it isn’t going away any time soon.
As a music teacher, I have an interesting vantage point for the state testing experience at my school. My district has adopted two assessments as our benchmark to demonstrate learning and growth in music: one based on music theory, and the other based on performance. However, my state has not adopted a standardized exam with astatetest music component, although rumors that one will be created have persisted throughout my professional career.
In some districts, this may translate into an unspoken culture of a “sub” content; that a class is of lesser importance because it is not being tested. Assessment in today’s educational environment is equated with validity for an educational professional. It is how educators show the “outside world” that what is happening within the walls of our classrooms has value and worth. I understand that mentality, but I don’t think it should be the only factor that determines what, or rather why, students are being taught.
Despite having only been teaching for seven years, which compared to some is barely any time at all, I feel that I have settled into a good routine and teaching style/strategy in my classroom. Because, like I’ve said before in a previous blog post, you own your classroom and what goes on inside its walls.
One of the things I have seen time and time again that seems to bring out not only successes in students, but also evidence of high-quality work, is when students are given a choice to complete a given task, assignment, or project. I call these “Menu” projects, because students essentially are choosing from a menu of project optiokidschoosingfoodns what they want to complete in order to demonstrate that they know and understand a topic.
Now, there is a catch to the “Menu” project option: the teacher has to come up with not one but multiple ways to complete the task, assignment, or project, as well as multiple rubrics and grading components. Given this, the “Menu” project may not be an option for every single task, assignment, or project in your class. However, for larger projects or summative assessments, this type of model might be just the right fit.
Educational technology affords our students experiences firsthand that they could previously have only through a secondary source like slides, videos, and teacher lectures. I liken the experiences students could potentially be having to the Holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that was popular while I was growing up in the late ’80s. It was here that Jean-Luc and his interstellar crew could find solutions to problems in a low-risk environment, as well as engage in fantastic hypotheticals and, on occasion, have fun.
Imagine having a Holodeck to teach about the Civil War, or to experiment on “living” organisms without doing mortal harm. Imagine inputting the components of a classic novel, and bringing it to life for your students as they take on the role of a character. Well, guess what, my esteemed colleagues? The ability to “boldly go where no (class) has gone before” is at the fingertips of every educator right now.
Two years ago, I wrote a blog post here that explored the relationship between a physical meeting space and the technology that would support it while not competing with it. At that time, the iPad was a toddler, there was no Windows 10, and the iPhone 6 had yet to be released (thus breaking all previous cell phone sales records). Also, at that time, I described the question about the soul of a learning commons as a search to define what a modern learning commons should look like when technology competes with face-to-face interactions.
Back then, I was comfortable designing collaborative spaces and embedding technology into every possible nook and cranny, whether it would be used heavily or rarely. So the conundrum was squarely rooted in the difference between synchronous and asynchronous space.
A synchronous space is one where the essence of use is anchored to the same moment in time. Asynchronous space, on the other hand, is a conceptual storage area where content can be consumed and replenished at the leisure of its users. The asynchronicity of the space only works if time is a variable. While synchronous space holds time as a constant and measures productive work as a function of real time, an asynchronous workspace provides its users on-demand feeding through a flexible digital environment where time expands and contracts at the whims of its users.
The title says it all: going Google has indeed changed the way I teach and my approach to education. Being in the technology education field lends itself very well to “going Google”; however, I haven’t always been where I am now. Not long ago I was just your run-of-the-mill middle school social studies teacher. My embrace of Google in a general education classroom has definitely paved the way for where I am today.
There’s this nifty little app you can get on your phone called Timehop, which syncs all of your social networks and gives you a “day in history” report for the past several years with everything you’ve posted on that date—a walk down memory lane each day. Recently on my Timehop I noticed I posted four years ago this Facebook status update: “New goal: Google Certified Teacher. Stay tuned, friends.” Without Timehop I don’t think I’d ever remember posting that, but as soon as I saw it, it came back to me: in 2011 I was doing some research for a technology course I was taking for my master’s program, and I came across the Google Teacher Academy and becoming a Google Certified Teacher. The school I was teaching at used Google for a lot of things, but the more I researched about the Academy and Google in Education, the more interested I became in the doors certification would open both inside and outside my classroom.
I wonder if all teachers and students feel the slow drag of third quarter. By the time March begins, the class hours seem to lengthen with the lingering sunlight. Students acting as seventh graders normally do, bemoaning my latest project, seem more apathetic than hesitant. The gray mornings feel colder, and the weekends feel shorter. It seems the lion of March has slunk in, and that cat is crabby! It’s a good thing spring break is just around the corner with the promise of rest and rejuvenation for students and teachers alike.
A few teachers will escape to a warm beach somewhere and sip drinks with floating umbrellas. That sounds mighty fine to me right now, but I’m planning to try out some of the creative projects that I’d like to share with my students when we return. Spring break presents the opportunity for me to indulge in technology and take time for my “creative fix.”
The revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy shown here has “creating” as the pinnacle of the pyramid. It’s interesting that most versions of the spectrum actually changed the labels of stages from nouns like “comprehension” to action verbs like “understanding.” Students are no longer expected to be simply consumers of information; they are now viewed as active producers, expected to use the tools we provide them to produce and create.
March means one thing for educators: spring break. If you are anything like me, you may try to achieve some sort of balance between professional development, catching up on work responsibilities, and being able to take time to relax and recharge. Also, if you are anything like me, you will feel guilt about not being able to achieve any of these objectives with a semblance of success, tainting the time spring break is supposed to afford us to recharge for the final weeks of the school year.
For a music educator, February through April can be one of the most hectic times of the year. The beginning of second semester in the music world has a different, more serious tone, but also a frenetic feel to it as individual students and ensembles perform and prepare to perform at a plethora of events.
Spring break provides a slight reprieve to the insanity. It neatly cuts expected performances in half, making where and when I am required to be at concerts, festivals, and competitions seemingly manageable. I know many ensembles across the country use their spring break as an opportunity to travel with their students. This allows directors to shoChoir-SpringBreak_3-5-15-1wcase the hard work ensembles have put in over the course of the school year, as well as to afford students performance opportunities that they will remember for a lifetime. I, however, do not subscribe to this practice for various reasons, mostly because, if I am being honest, I need the break.