Welcome!

Welcome to my EdTech Learning Log.

 I am currently a Graduate Student at Boise State University; in the process of obtaining my Masters of Educational Technology (M.E.T) degree. Hopefully, if all goes well, I will also obtain a certificate for Technology Integration Specialist.

My learning log will be compilation of the many artifacts (assignments) that I will be completing throughout my tenure at Boise State University

Please feel free to visit often as this site will be changed and/or updated constantly.

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How Young is Too Young?

So, a couple of posts ago I created a poll about how much cell phone use my readers planned for on a weekly basis. I was saddened to find out that there are still so many districts that ban cell phone usage in school. I don’t understand this rule. I understand that if it is not monitored enough it can become a problem, however, it can also be one of the best tools used in the classroom. I, for one, would love more training on how I could incorporate them more frequently into my lessons.

Now, in saying all that….as a parent, I was against allowing my kids to have a cell phone prior to the age of 16. My reasoning was that up to that point my husband or I  would be the one driving them here and there. We would know their location, who they were with, etc. But I was convinced when my son was 11, and entered the sixth grade, to go ahead and let him get a phone. My best friend taught in middle school and said it would/could be beneficial to him. So, I caved and allowed it. It has become a precious commodity and therefore is an awesome bargaining tool. I take it when he doesn’t act right, at home and/or at school. The good side is if he has football practice and gets out early he is able to call me easier.

Here is my question, at what age would you allow your child to have a cell phone?

How Much Info Do You Leave for Your Substitutes?

OK….. I am in the process of getting reactivated as a sub in my district.  Part of this process is watching videos and answering questions to show my understanding. One section was all about special education and the role of a teacher and a substitute teacher. Now, here is where it got interesting; It said that the everyday teacher is supposed to leave the accommodations of students with IEP’s and  504’s for the substitute.  In all of my years of training, I have been told those documents are for mine, the resource teacher’s, and administration’s eyes only.  Have I been taught wrong and been neglectful in leaving this information for my substitute teachers or was I taught correctly? The majority of substitute teachers are not certified and therefore have not been fully trained on any of these documents.

What are your thoughts??

Personal Narrative Essay (video entry)

This past school year my sixth graders learned about how to construct a personal narrative. This was rather confusing to them because they were used to the more formal way of five paragraphs, stay in the third person, etc. During this time I was taking a YouTube class at BSU, so I went there to help find something that would help teach the points of a Personal Narrative Essay or PNE!

I found many options but like I said in a previous post, many of my students liked the entertainment value especially when it came to an educational video. So, low and behold I found an awesome one! This lesson on personal narratives has all of the elements my students needed to stay engaged and participate in class discussion. I was very proud of them. Plus, they like the fact she used “Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam to help illustrate all of the required elements on a PNE.

Here’s an Idea…Audio Post

So, if there is one I have learned is that keeping parents informed is more important in elementary and middle school versus high school. There are many different methods one can choose to stay in contact, such as email, the Remind 101 app, newsletters, physical letters sent home, and via a website.  A few semesters ago in one of my BSU classes, we were asked to create three podcasts, on anything we wanted as long as all three were related. So, I decided to create a newletter-style podcast. Many parents do not read all of the emails I send or even open the online newsletters. But I thought that if I could text them a no more than three-minute message they may listen. So the following links are the three podcasts I created. I actually used my newsletters I sent home with students.

Substitute Teachers….

As a certified teacher, I understand and know how important it is to get a GOOD substitute teacher.  I have had subs that acted like a warm body in the classroom and I have has subs that went above and beyond….so those are the subs I appreciate the most. I am not saying I am not appreciative of all subs in general because they come into my classroom and attempt to maintain control and ordinance. But to those subs that are accountable, are not push overs, and leave my classroom clean, those are the ones I ask to sub again and again.

This upcoming school year, I will be subbing again because I have not found a permanent teaching position. This saddens me, but I know what I look for in a sub when I am teaching and therefore strive to be the best sub ever when I am asked to do so.

When the school year begins I hope, if you are a teacher, you will find a substitute teacher that will be the best one you have ever encountered. If you are a sub please remember to go by the teacher instructions and do as they ask. Because if there is one thing teachers do not appreciate, it is a sub who decides to make a lesson of their own versus what the teacher needs them to do!

 

P.S. to teachers …..always leave a seating chart! It makes a sub’s life so much easier. =)

To Be or Not To Be….a Digital Native?

In this week’s reading, there is a notion that students today are considered “digital natives” because they have grown up surrounded by computers and video games. It is believed by one of the authors, Prensky, that the students of today (the Digitial Natives) have different “thinking patterns” versus previous generations, such as the Baby Boomers.

I am of the generation that is considered “Generation X.” There were not many computers when I went to school. My first computer lab was in 8th grade and “Oregon Trail” was da bomb! LOL  My school still had a Typing Class, not a Keyboarding Class….and yes there is a difference! So, to suffice it to say I did not get much training on computers until my college years and beyond. Therefore, more of my teachers and my own learning required me to use actual books and dig for answers.  Now, I say all of this because I don’t think today’s students have a different thinking pattern they just have a new way of gathering answers. This is why it so important for teachers to change their instructional strategies in the classroom. Not because they think differently but because their way of searching is different.

I know this to be true just from observing my own classes. Students would much rather scour several different websites versus sit in a library and find books on their subject. Also, there is the instant gratification that is prevalent in today’s students….thank you Google. Many strategies have a kind of “entertainment” value. I know for my own classrooms I have looked for such items as a YouTube video, Powtoons, or something else animated to use in the classroom versus me just handing out the information for them to copy.

So, on the notion of Digital Natives…I agree and disagree. I disagree with Prensky when he said, “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” (2001, Pg. 1). I think our educational system is designed to teach all students no matter what generation they were born. I do think they are digital natives because of the different instructional strategies that need to be employed by educators to reach today’s students. The use of more technology whether it is different hardware, software, or applications replace yesterdays pen, paper, encyclopedia, dictionary, etc.

Comment below and let me know what you think!

 

References:

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Life in the Classroom: Making Connections! (Guest Entry)

My guest blogger this week is Beth Polhemus. She is a 13-year veteran teaching middle school math. She is an inspiration as a mentor and friend. Beth has a way of making everything seem positive and upbeat, even on a bad day. I love her teaching style because she has a way of teaching Christ-like values to students that do not see them on a regular basis.

LIFE IN THE CLASSROOM:  MAKING CONNECTIONS

            My name is Beth, and I teach 8th grade math.  I’m pretty sure anyone who has gone through education courses in college has heard some variation of the same advice:  helping students learn is all about making connections.  But what comes to mind when we hear that phrase?  After 13 years of experience, I’ve learned there’s much more to be said for making connections than just the material I’m teaching.  In fact, I would say that this phrase has been a constant theme of some of the more successful moments in my career as an educator.  We can connect new material to prior skills, of course.  Along with that, though, we can connect concepts to student interests and experience.  We can make connections with our students on a personal level.  (“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”-John C. Maxwell)  We can find a network of support from our fellow teachers who we connect with regularly to share ideas.  And we certainly want to make connections with parents.  I try to incorporate all of these different connections regularly in my classroom.  I find it helps challenge me to find new ideas, and it also helps me realize when my own ideas are maybe not the best (WHAT??!!).  Below are some examples of how each type of connection has helped make my classroom a better, more comfortable place for students to learn.

  1. CONNECTING CONCEPTS TO STUDENT INTERESTS AND EXPERIENCE

Think about a time when you have learned something new.  It doesn’t have to be in the classroom.  Why is it that you were able to learn so much or so quickly?  Most likely, it’s because you had a genuine interest.  In my world of teenagers, most 13- and 14-year-olds are not naturally excited by math.  So, I have to be creative about helping them make connections.  This is something I still work on all the time.  One way I engage is by using fun activities to introduce a concept.  For example:  When we study scatter plots, functions, and independent and dependent data, I do a musical activity with the students.  They listen to 10 different songs and give them a rating from 1-10.  Then we talk about the ways that their graph represents a function because no songs were repeated, how it shows no relationship as a scatter plot because there was no pattern to their ratings, etc.  The kids get a kick out of making fun of my musical taste, but it also helps illustrate a point that is sometimes hard to visualize.  Another example is when studying transformations on the coordinate plane.  Most students have been to the eye doctor and understand the concept of getting their eyes dilated, and thus can understand that a dilation changes a shape by size.  Or, I take my student athletes by surprise.  When I talk about translations and rotations (slides and turns), I shock them with my basketball knowledge.  I compare a rotation to a pivot:  a legal move with the ball.  I demonstrate, and then I compare a translation to a walk/travel.  I am picking up my feet.  It makes sense to them!  I am always looking for little things to help make connections in their mind for math concepts to things that are familiar to them.  I have also been known to rap, sing songs, and even do the electric slide when teaching about slope.

  1. CONNECTING WITH STUDENTS ON A PERSONAL LEVEL

Students want to feel valued and appreciated.  As a teacher, I cannot demand respect or earn respect without also giving it in return.  So, I take the idea of making sure my students feel important very seriously.  Every year, as most teachers do, I have my students fill out an All About Me sheet on the first day.  The difference is, I read every single one AND make notes.  Then, throughout the year, I have a Guess Who? Wall outside my room.  I randomly pick anywhere from 5 to 10 students and put their info up on the wall.  I have a jar where students can place their guesses for about a week (sometimes longer if I’m being honest—I do get behind!).  Then, I reveal the answers and do a drawing.  The first correct answer I draw from the jar gets a homework pass.  This lets my students know I really do pay attention to their interests, and it lets them be the center of attention for their classmates during their time on the Guess Who? Wall as well.  I will never forget the year I had a student write down what I thought was going to be a very questionable song choice as their favorite song.  I was reading my forms and as I ran across his, I had to look up the song and its lyrics.  It was actually a really interesting song!  During some down time in class the next day, I happened to mention it to him that I liked it, and he looked at me with the most shocked look on his face.  First it was shock, but then it turned into a smile.  Priceless!  I also do a theme for every day of the week in my classroom.  My favorite is Math Joke Monday.  I post a cheesy math joke for my students while they do their bellringer.  One year, I got a book from a coworker called “Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks.”  I started using jokes from it instead of ones I found online or made up myself.  I had a student that year who was having a pretty rough time personally, but she absolutely loved my jokes.  She asked for that book for Valentine’s Day from her parents, and emailed me a picture of herself with the book.  Her dad told me she never liked math until she had me as a teacher, and that he had only ever seen her love a gift as much as that book on two other occasions.  Now, every year, I can count on having at least one or two students submit their own jokes.  I also have a Thought for Tuesday, where I share quotes or inspirational videos.  One of my favorites is Kid President.  I hand out a piece of paper to my students after I show the video and it says “REMEMBER:  Love is louder than hate.  You are important.  I am glad you are here.”  At the bottom is a space for them to fill in the blank, “I can contribute to the world because ________.”  It is not unusual for things I give students to get lost, left behind, thrown out, etc., but this yellow slip of paper usually hangs around visible:  in their binder cover, in their phone cover, in their wallet.  They really do need to feel valued!

  1. CONNECTING WITH FELLOW TEACHERS

These days, there are plenty of mandated opportunities for connecting with our coworkers.  Faculty meetings, vertical meetings, workshops, PLC’s, PLT’s,…But the type of connection I’m speaking of takes effort.  Is it hard to make time at the end of a long day to go and talk to someone about their day?  YES.  But, it’s necessary.  If you see a coworker has had a hard day, go check in on them.  You would want the same when it’s you!  Or, if you are stuck on an idea or lesson, ask!  There are so many great resources in your own building, it’s a shame to try to do everything on your own.

  1. CONNECTING WITH PARENTS

Finally, this is a no-brainer.  In a perfect world, we would all have angels in our classrooms who never need behavior intervention and they always do their homework and study hard and make good grades because we have epic, amazing teaching skills.  But we all know this is not the case.  Parents, especially of middle schoolers, are at the point where they want to be involved, and also want to make sure their students are getting the level of academic success they need to tackle the high school years.  A weekly or bi-weekly e-mail of classroom news works wonders!  In addition, I keep a detailed website.  It has a calendar of homework and test dates, as well as a section where notes can be found if a student is absent.  This has helped with so many questions about assignments!  And, on a side note, contacting home early before there is a problem can make all the difference in the world.  One year when I was feeling particularly motivated, I managed to find time to either e-mail or call the parents of every single one of my students within the first 2-3 weeks of school to introduce myself, give them some basic info, and say something positive about their child.  Some of the parents almost broke down in tears as it was obvious that this was not something that happened on a regular basis.  I’m sure it was rewarding for them, but even more so for me.  It gave me a different viewpoint of my students, and it helped me to be less nervous for that day when I did have to call home with a concern.  I can’t say I have succeeded in contacting every parent every year, but, I do still try to periodically pick a few students about whom to send home some positive news.  It always makes an impact!

I will embark on my 14th year of teaching this year, and I am excited about connecting with a new principal, some new coworkers, and of course new students and parents.  The most important thing is that I never stop learning, and striving to make my classroom a better place.  And for that, I rely on one of the most important connections of all:  the Internet!  There are TONS of helpful articles from teachers sharing ideas.  May we all be enriched and ready to go this school year!

Are We Hurting or Helping Our Students? (Commentary Entry)

Ok..touchy subject up ahead. You have been warned.

IEP’s, 504’s….these are generally set in place to help out struggling students that need a little something extra to succeed in the classroom. I, personally do not have a problem with that scenario. What I do have a problem with is the fact that many school districts, in fear of lawsuits, want to make sure the students pass, NO MATTER WHAT! Meaning, the teachers are told, “Make sure these students do not fail.” This is a problem. Are we not supposed to help our students become successful productive citizens? Are we not supposed to make sure they know and pass (legitimately) the same standards as the general education students? Then why is it ok to pass them when they have clearly not mastered the standards? In my experience, it appears to be a numbers game with the administration and it’s frustrating to teachers, at least the good ones that care! This past school year, my partner had given every opportunity in the world to help her struggling students, many of them with IEP’s. However, these students already learned, by 6th grade mind you, that they could do whatever that wanted and STILL PASS! So, what is the point of my job? What is the proper solution here?

I don’t think it is right, or fair, to anyone involved. I feel if the administration had more backbone many parents/guardians would get on board. I understand that many parents are not home to help their student and this is one of the many reasons why I think we need to work smarter in helping them to master the standards instead of letting them “just pass.”

What are your thoughts?

What Would Be the Best Integration Process? (Discussion Entry)

I have always been technology-minded in my teaching career. I enjoy working with it as well as instructing others on how to use/implement it.  My ideal job would be a Technology Integration Specialist for my district.

My question is this…for those teachers that began teaching without using much technology, what could I do to help ease them into the integration process without it becoming so overwhelming I end up losing them?