Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Meanwhile in #digcit

I blogged earlier this year about the fact that I was embarking on a new class and was very excited as we (my PLN and I) developed the curriculum.

9 weeks in, I can tell you my expectations were blown away by the projects, collaboration, dialogue and blogging of my students.

Here is what we've been up to:

1. We have learned what a digital footprint is and have examined ours by Googling all of our usernames, given name and email addresses.

2. We Skyped with a college admissions director to learn how our activity online can affect our ability to gain admittance to, or remain in, a post-secondary school.

3. We had a discussion with our School Resource Officer about the legal ramifications of online behavior (bad #digcit) and what we can do if people are cyberbullying us.

4. We had a couple business owners come in and talk to us about how social media (and our digital footprint) can affect our ability to get a job.

5. We established Pinterest accounts so that we can Pin reseach items for our Passion Project and for a presentation we are going to give to the community and parents about good #digcit.

6. We established a Blogger account and have been blogging about our experiences in class and what our thoughts are on different topics or current events involving social media and #digcit.

7. We learned what a # is actually for and then practiced a live chat with the moderator of the #digcit chat. (@mbfxc) and then the students joined in for the real thing that night.  They were able to interact with hundreds of people sharing their stories and knowledge about #digcit.  They did a great job!!

8. We have been tweeting out to promote good #digcit and #cyberbullyingprevention

9. We have started a dialogue in our school about using good #digcit and have been encouraging our student body to practice it.

9. We are currently making PSAs about #cyberbullyingprevention and are uploading them to a Global Cyberbullying Prevention project.

10. We have learned what it means to be connected (#cs14) and have talked about (and showed through our connectedness) what it means to be connected and why that is so vital and conducive in the world they live in.

We've been busy!!  Can't wait to update you again soon!

PS EVERYTHING we do is put out there for the global audience to see.  We know that it is so important that the students work for the global audience and do not produce things that will die with me.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Most Important Thing That You Probably Aren't Doing (I know I wasn't)

Warning: This blog is not necessarily all about curriculum or pedagogy...

I will give you some background.  Four years ago this past Spring, my neighbor, who has a police scanner, heard my 911 call and found me in my driveway unresponsive.  After 10 days in the hospital it took me 18 months to get healthy.

I had to take a hard look at how I was living my life.  I wasn't happy at work, I wasn't happy with who I was or who I was around the students.  I put on a good front (or so I convinced myself) and trudged through everyday.  Once I got to the point where I wasn't sleeping 12-14 hours a day (sometimes losing entire weekends to sleep) I decided I owed myself something better.

I started to get back to working out.  I've always felt better about life when I'm able to exercise, but I lost my way somewhere.  In the process, I started to read more about healthy eating and what certain foods could do for you.  I have Celiac Disease, so I thought I was eating healthy.  Not even close.

Long story short, I lost 70 pounds and now eat nothing that is processed if I can control what I am eating.

My point is this... if we aren't nurturing our souls, how are we able to nurture the souls of the students in front of us?  Those who are in the field of caring for others often forget to care for themselves.

I was at work at 3:45AM (yep, that's in the morning) and worked until almost 5 today, but I had so much energy at the end of the day that I cranked out a 7 mile run.  It was liberating to see the sunshine and feel the fresh air fill my lungs as I hit the pavement.

On my run I reflected on the day.  I took stock of those things for which I am grateful.  I realized that I have more energy during my day after 19 years of teaching than I did when I first started and had about 110 fewer responsibilities! :)

To what do I owe this? Taking care of myself.  Owning that the only person that is going to look out for me is me.  Knowing that everyday I encourage students to be the best person they can be and to strive to be better each day.  Why wouldn't I demand that of myself also?

So get out there and move! Get your endorphin's pumping! (Maybe I will see you out on the pavement!)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Back From #EdCampUNY

The first thing you have to understand is that I hate driving long distances.  By long distances, I mean more than 15 minutes.  I blame my parents because they used to put me in the car to put me to sleep as an infant.

Now that we got that out of the way...

I had a 3 hour drive back from #edcampuny on Saturday and I really wasn't looking forward to it.  I was exhilarated by what I learned on Saturday but as I entered my vehicle, all I could think about was 3 hours of my life I wasn't going to get back were about to happen.

As I pulled out of the driveway from Queensbury HS, it was like I was on autopilot as far as driving.  Google Maps had my back as I navigated from 87 to 90 to 88, but it's as if I didn't know it was happening.  I started to think about all of the things I learned on Saturday and how I could make them work as I go back to work on Monday.

Thankfully I have mastered voice to text on my iPhone, so I could make notes to myself as well as email my administrators and colleagues to share my learning with them.  I sent an email to my Superintendent, Principal as well as the Director of Instruction and Leadership.  In that email, I explained what I learned about makerspaces and how you don't need to make them overly complex to get them started.  We grappled with how to make it work last year and finally decided not to do it since we couldn't make it work at that point and we didn't want to launch it without a clear plan in place.  I shared my inspiration from the Innovation teacher at QHS and how keeping it simple, really allowed the students to flourish.  You don't have to have a teacher who knows every piece of tech and has all the answers.  You have to have a teacher that can guide students as they grapple with a problem to solve with society and help point them in the right direction when the room doesn't know how to solve a problem.  I asked if it was possible for someone to go to ISTE this year since it sounds like an amazing experience and it is much closer this year (Philadelphia).  I also asked to sit and chat so we could all work together to get our district continuing in a direction that provides a model to other schools in the area of how to harness technology to make a transformational experience for our students and staff.

Next email was to just my principal.  That email was probably about a 20 minute voice to text and there may be a couple words in it that Siri and I had a disagreement about, but I was driving and way too excited to worry about a couple auto correct words getting in the way.  I continued the makerspace conversation with him and added in the possibility of using district grant money in a way that was totally outside the box of thought when they got together with IT and put the parameters for the grant together.  I explained how I thought that we could flip faculty meetings and then provide more time for the staff to work with the technology.  Once their comfort level increases and they have time to actually make a take a way, they are more likely to use the technology in a meaningful way, not just use it to use it.  I also explained how I thought Voxer could really be used by him to help his workflow.  Lastly, I passed on another great idea from the meeting to use Remind to help chronically tardy students get to school on time.

Next I emailed a couple colleagues of mine and shared how some of the apps I learned about could help in their classroom.  For example, Voxer could revolutionize how the LOTE department does their final speaking parts of the final.

I next spent some time thinking about what I wanted to incorporate and how I could really make the energy that I feel from an edcamp last.  I tweeted out (voice to text of course) about anyone from CNY wanting to help me form an edcamp.  6 months ago if you had asked me about organizing and edcamp I would have said you were crazy.  Now, I feel like I am crazy if I DON'T organize one.

Funny thing is... next thing I knew, I was at Walmart in my home town ready to grocery shop.  I have no idea how three hours of my life could be so meaningful as I reflected on the day and have no concept that the three hours went by.  That, my friends, is a sign of a GREAT day!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Open Letter to Our District Staff about Twitter

Here's my Twitter Handle... Tweet Me Maybe?
                In a time when we are asked to continually do more with less, I have found a breath of fresh air that makes the "more" much easier.  Social media has always been something I've seen as a way to vent or catch up with old friends or former students.  When I ventured onto Twitter I thought it was great that I could see all of the news from around the world so quickly.  That was the extent to which I thought my Twitter usage would be utilized.  Then my eyes opened to the endless professional possibilities available on Twitter.  In establishing my PLN (Professional Learning Network), I've discovered other educators experiencing the same frustrations as I am.  These educators have offered sage advice and a spring board to reinvigorating my daily pedagogy.  I've long thought that I wasn't meeting the students where they are; I was assuming they would meet me where I was.  This assumption added a tremendous amount of frustration to my daily life in the classroom as I realized my relevance to my students had a short lifespan. 
                Additionally, I found chats on Twitter that happen everyday of the week that connect me to educators around the world.  I now have connections in over 30 countries and just about every state in the US, and these connections have so many great ideas and solutions to things with which I've been struggling. 
                This year, I am teaching a Digital Citizenship class that requires me to create a curriculum rich in content while connected to the Common Core.  I've connected with educators in the same situation and we are sharing ideas.  I've connected with educators who have already implemented this class and are sharing their successes and challenges.  Instead of feeling isolated in creating a new curriculum, I have a wealth of resources that before Twitter and my PLN was non existent. 
                Professional development is something that we all crave; however, I think we have all felt at one point in our career, that maybe there was more out there.  Twitter allows for differentiated PD that YOU choose.  Have a passion for something education or curriculum related? Dive in!  Have questions about how other 3rd grade or  7th grade (etc.) teachers are dealing with the Common Core? Dive in!  Looking for tech help? Dive in!  The list goes on and on!
                Beyond those resources, I've found things like Mystery Skype which sets you up with a classroom anywhere in the world so you can learn, create, and collaborate in real world projects.  What a motivation for students!                
                There are so many things I'm learning everyday that I can't begin to list all of them here.  I feel it is so important for students to see us being life long learners if we expect them to be eager learners and eventually life long learners.  I can help guide you if you are interested in Twitter, or you can just dive in and explore on your own! Happy Tweeting!!     

My Twitter handle: @apgovme                                                          

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#digcit Twitter chat IN class today!

In the last 6 months (my lifespan on Twitter) I've made so many great connections and my PLN continues to grow each and everyday!  The connections I have have opened so many doors for me professionally, my classroom and for my students.  Today is a perfect example of that in action.

Yesterday while I was out for a run, it occurred to me that this week was a #digcit chat (7PM on 2nd and 4th Wednesdays) and that I should entice my students to join in.  Then I got thinking that it might be overwhelming for them since that chat can go pretty quickly and get very energetic.  Then the light bulb went off!  Why not have a chat in class?  Why not invite some of my Tweeps who are active on #digcit to join??  I tweeted @mbfxc (professor in CT who teaches #digcit courses to current and soon to be teachers) and asked if there was any possibility she could join us.  I'm not going to lie, I figured she would be way too busy and politely decline.  Instead, I got an enthusiastic YES from her!!  Now the wheels were spinning!  This could be a perfect time to get my administrators (who are very supportive of me and of my outside the box ideas) to experience a chat and to see the students engaged, learning a new digital skill, participating in a chat that would go beyond my four walls and also practicing their good #digcit skills!

@mbfxc and I decided to create a Google Doc so we could collaborate on the questions to ask and so that we could share resources (read that as @mbfxc graciously sharing all of her amazing knowledge and resources and me soaking it all up) and also prep for the discussion.

We decided to use the #digcit so that anyone who was monitoring that # could jump in.  And they did!  We had over 10 other people involved, which never would have happened if I had held a simple class discussion.  The students were thrilled when people they didn't know favorited or retweeted their tweets.  They felt like their message (tweets) had meaning and were actually going someplace!

We held the conversation for 35 minutes.  They couldn't believe how fast the time went!  They were able to follow the format and pose questions of the discussion participants.  They were able to post pictures and links to help with the chat.  They were able to make connections that were only afforded us because of Twitter.

They are excited to join the conversation tonight and I can't wait to have them there!!

I am so thankful for all the help of my PLN today!  Especially #mbfxc!  Thank you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

History Madness Brackets

Yesterday and today in my US History classes, I have witnessed deep discussion as well as polite disagreements over historical figures and events.  I heard things like "Why would you choose President Polk over President Jefferson.  President Jefferson doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase and gave us access to the Mississippi River as well as the Port of New Orleans" In response I heard "President Polk was able to convince the Congress of a new nation to take a risk and declare war to gain more land".  That is just a sampling of the conversations I heard yesterday and today.  In addition to hearing curriculum based conversations, I heard "This is so cool! No one's ever asked my opinion about history."  "It's cool that we can all work on Padlet at the same time to see what everyone else is saying about history."  "I can look at all the evidence right here! So cool!"

Why was I hearing this?  The students were given NCAA style brackets with historical events, documents, presidents or conflicts that we have already studied this year.  Their task was to take the assigned bracket and determine (with their partner) the winner.  Once they determined who won the bracket, they had to post it on Padlet along with their explanation of why and how they chose the winner.  Next, they have to attach some historical evidence that backs up their choice as winner. They can upload a video clip, a quote, a document, a website link, etc.  Lastly, they have to create a short video explaining how they collaborated to come to their consensus.  They could do this by using WeVideo on their Chromebooks or creating a series of Vines and uploading those.  They could also choose a different platform if they knew of something that accomplished the same thing.  Once they were done, I showed them how to upload a document to Schoology so I could quickly assess with the live rubric and provide feedback.

I very much enjoyed hearing them excited about history and using their analytic skills to determine who would win each bracket.  I loved this project!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

#ePortfolios for #flipped #apgov class

My AP Government and Politics students are in the process of submitting their ePortfolios this evening.  A few have submitted them via Schoology already and they are fantastic!

The purpose of the ePortfolio is to give them a collection of items that will be helpful when they begin reviewing for the AP test in April/May.  At the beginning of each unit, I give them their partners (we alternate with them choosing and me choosing, knowing they cannot work with the same people they have already worked with) and a list of items to be included in their ePortfolio.  This isn't an assignment that requires them to create new items, they are simply collaborating to combine their work from the unit and choosing what is the best example of their work.

In order to turn this in, they have to use a virtual, collaborative platform.  I have suggested Padlet, Google Presentations or Prezi, but they can come up with anything else that fits that expectation.  The discussions I have heard in class regarding the analysis of work and the decision of what to include and what to exclude are deep, informative and productive.

After they are submitted via Schoology, I am able to evaluate them with the live rubric I have attached. Additionally, I am able to give them instant feedback.  The fact that they are due by 11:59PM gives them more opportunity to work outside class and fits their schedule better.  All they have to do is click on the assignment in the Schoology calendar and upload the assignment.  It's that simple!

Once they are submitted, a peer group will evaluate all of the portfolios and decide which pieces from each portfolio will become the exemplary portfolio for us to use in April/May when studying.  The conversations that always take place among the peer groups are deep and analytic in nature.  They are very invested in choosing the exemplary pieces of evidence since they will be relying on it to to study from.  They are able to complete this process virtually since everything is housed online.  Once again, this makes it easier for our over scheduled teens to "get together" but do not have to be in the same place at the same time.  Talk about becoming college and career ready!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#flippedclass #apgov

I began flipping my AP Gov class last school year.  I decided to flip the entire thing so there would be some more consistency for the students.  At first, I really thought that the asynchronous method would be the best way to encourage deeper student exploration into the curriculum.  Unfortunately, that was a miscalculation on my part.  I underestimated the rigidity that the AP students were used to in their other courses.  Flipping the class and using the asynchronous method caused a revolt by my students.  I stepped back and took a good look at what I was trying to accomplish and decided that if I wanted to flip (and I really did) I needed to focus on that part and then work the asynchronous method in.  Things smoothed out after that and I was able to flip the class and see success on test scores (not my favorite, but school mandated) and a deeper understanding of the information by my students.  There ability to interact with the information on a deeper level and with more frequency really paid off in the end.

This year, the district switched from Moodle to @schoology and that has transitioned the class to an even greater place.  @schoology allows for my workflow and theirs to be streamlined.  It allows me to give instant feedback via a grade from the interactive, live rubric and to comment on their submitted assignments.  It also allows greater access to my video lessons because I do not have to rely on YouTube, which is blocked at school.  The fact that both the students and I are able to access everything via  mobile device gives access to students on bus trips to soccer games and while on college trips.  No longer are they missing instruction, reinforcement activities and assignments just because they are an over scheduled teenager who needs to decide what path to take next year as they head off on their next life journey.

An additional piece that has made class more of a collaborative environment is the use of Google Docs and Padlet.  The students comment to me almost everyday that being able to work with their partner and not have to be in the same place at the same time fits their hectic lifestyle and late nights much easier.  There is not a day that goes by that I don't hear a student musing as to how much help this is going to be next year and how it has changed the way that they view their workflow.

Looking forward to more adventures!  Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#digcit class

Last year, after seeing @e_sheninger speak at a connected educator conference, I saw a missing curriculum in our district.  We were expecting our students to be good digital citizens, but not teaching it.  We weren't valuing it enough to make it a class or to model it through the open use of social media.

I began to mull over the possibilities for this class.  Which direction did I want to take the class?  Would it be a 10 week or 20 week course?  Would it be all levels or just upperclassmen?  If you think about it, digital citizenship for digital natives should be something that is taught starting on day one of any formalized schooling if it isn't already a conversation at home.

I spent a lot of time researching the topic this past Spring and came across Common Sense Media.  It is a treasure trove of resources and a spring board for many of the ideas I am not implementing in my #digcit course.

Over the past 7 weeks, I've really grown to love this course more than I thought I could.  I knew that being into social media myself and a concerned citizen regarding digital natives misusing the most powerful tool available to them, I knew this course was or me.

One of the things that I have exposed our students to is the power of a #.  We have participated in educationally based chats using the #digcit.  We have researched what others are saying about #cyberbullyingprevention.  We have seen what it means to be a #cs14 (connected student).  We have made connections that otherwise wouldn't have been possible!

Stay tuned.. more to come!