Friday, July 26, 2013

Sunday River Practical Ed Tech Camp

Earlier this July while I was checking the #Edtechchat on Twitter I saw that there was one ticket left for the Sunday River Practical Ed Technology Camp run by Richard Byrne. Since my school is going BYOD next year I wanted to find new technologies that would be applicable to my students to engage in collaboration, curate their own content, and seamlessly integrate technology into my teaching practice.

Covered Bridge near Sunday River

Two tools that I can see myself implementing in various ways are Google Earth and ThingLink. I've used Google Earth for years, but have wanted to use it for virtual field trips and didn't know where to start. I also have tons of photos from our overseas school trips and personal vacations that I would love to use in class, but besides showing a slideshow and annotating them live each time I wasn't sure what I could do.

I can pare these two pieces of technology together to make many lessons more relevant and interactive. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, students can use both of these tools to create their own products and then share them out in presentations.

After our department trips overseas, I like to share the photos I've taken, but after that I rarely do anything with them other than posting them to a website to share them with family and friends. With ThingLink I can annotate the pictures with many more pieces of information. For example, a picture of me in front of the Acropolis could have video attached that I recorded while there, a wikipedia article on the Acropolis, a podcast of a professor who was lecturing on debates at the Acropolis, a link to the virtual tour of the Acropolis. While doing this we can also use Google Earth to gain many other pieces of information, such as how far it is from where we are, where it is in relation to Sparta, how high the acropolis is, among many other pieces of information that students can brainstorm to answer.

Constantly in this conference, I was thinking, why in 2013 are we still doing...a poster board presentation...a in person discussion? There are so many other interactive options out there that can keep the classroom relevant after the bell rings and keep kids engaged in learning. Isn’t a goal of education to encourage students to become life-long learners who are responsible for that learning?

There were so many more applications that were introduced, discussed, and played around with but I don’t want to bore you! A future post will have a rundown of other applications and technology tools that were discussed. I certainly will post about how I am using new (to me) technology in my classroom over the course of the school year, so stay tuned!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Reflective Learning

After much thought and consideration, I feel like I have some direction for the changes I want to make in my Civics class in the coming school year. Reading through my previous students’ comments, quiet contemplation, as well as bouncing ideas between myself and others, I have a plan. While it may not be solid and it may will change, I’m ok with that!
Here are the broad problem categories I identified in the beginning of July according to my students:
  • videos were too long
  • quizzes were too frequent
  • video content wasn’t seen as connected to in class discussion and activity

These weren’t the only problems they described to me, but I feel that these are the three main problems that most of their other issues can fall into.

I agree with the above concerns and I’d like to add my own
  • lack of student engagement in the classroom
  • need to improve and increase student creation and independence

So how am I going to tackle these issues? 

1. Videos
  • First, revamp my videos. 
    • I watched a bunch of other History/Social Studies teacher videos on YouTube, not any one person in particular just many. Quantity in this case showed me, that what I was “teaching” in my videos was too long but not necessarily too much. There was a lot of extraneous talking and that needs to be minimized. When I first started this journey one of my goals was to cut down on the lecture time and increase discussion. While I've done that, I can certainly do a better job on Version 2.0.
  • Secondly, a quick overview on video is just fine.
    • The details can be discussed within class, within the activity etc. 
  • Thirdly, I’m going to also give multiple options for the same assignment. 
    • I realize that students learn different ways, but I wasn’t implementing that knowledge. I don’t care how students interact with the information, just that they are prepared for class. So if watching a video, reading the text, or researching it themselves is going to get them to the same place, I’m happy!

2. Quizzes

  • First, reduce the number of quizzes. 
    • This past year I gave a quiz for each video. Which caused quizzes to happen frequently. Students tended to feel overwhelmed and with the retake option, they may be taking a quiz on a concept they had reviewed and a new concept in the same day. This created confusion as well as them not doing their best.
  • Secondly, increase diversity of questions on quizzes.
    • I definitely need to change up the format of quizzes.
  • Thirdly, go back to paper and pencil quizzes
    • Students were very vocal about not liking "clicker" quizzes. Socrative seems to be good for formative and informal assessments, but if I want to quiz them on something that will appear on a summative assessment later (final, end of unit test), then I need to do pencil and paper at least at this point.
  • Fourthly, encourage and insist that students take retakes only AFTER they have studied and proven they have reviewed the material.
    • Not sure how I am going to do this, but am continuing to think about it. I am keeping the 30/50 threshold though, much to their dismay.

3. Connecting Videos/Reading/Research to in class discussions and activities

  • Be more concrete in the first units with connections to give them tools necessary to make connections in later units
    • One common phrase I heard throughout the year, "What does this have to do with what we watched?" Or, "what does this have to do with Civics?"
    • I want students to be able to make those connections on their own
    • First unit on Government beginnings (historical reference, theories, purposes etc.) I plan on talking about different types of modern governments and how they each address the four purposes of governments. Students will have to determine how they address them in similar and dissimilar fashions.
      • Students will watch videos on types of governments, purposes of government, theories of government
      • In class students will discuss modern day governments, work in small groups to compare and contrast
4. Increased engagement, creation, and independence

  • I don't quite have a set plan of action for this problem. I'm hoping that the changes above will help to address this, but also realizing, that since this is a semester course I can change what isn't working in the fall for the spring.
  • I want to encourage more engagement, creation, and independence in my world history courses as well, why should this be limited to one course!

I’m currently at Practical Ed Tech Camp learning about the practical uses of all sorts of resources that will help me to bring in more technology as well as ways for my students to curate their own content and ideas. More to come on Practical Ed Tech Camp once it wraps up! But here is a teaser photo of my view from my hotel room. The Camp is being held at Jordan Grand Resort Hotel - part of Sunday River. Perfect for a 3 day getaway!

Learn about Richard Byrne who put this amazing conference together here. His blog is very useful for all teachers looking for practical application of technology in their classroom, no matter the grade level!

View from my room at the Jordan Grand Resort at Sunday River.