EDTech You Should Be Using #5

Okay, this might not be a technology, but it’s a great way to create a strong blended learning environment!

As we implement more and more technology into the classroom, we should begin to consider different models that allow us to successfully establish a blended learning environment.  Blended learning combines traditional face to face instruction with a digital component. The station rotation model is a prime example of blended learning. The model allows students to work in small groups to complete various assignments focused on the lesson objectives.  Below is an example of what a four-station rotation activity might look like:

 

  • Station 1:  Students record a step by step math tutorial.

  • Station 2:  Students compete in a Kahoot.

  • Station 3:  Students conduct an error analysis of incorrect responses to math problems.

  • Station 4:  Students work with the teacher to reinforce the concept.

 

Each group of students would spend 10 minutes at each station completing the assigned task.  As you can see, the station rotation model allows the teacher to blend online learning with a more personal face to face learning experience.  Additionally, this is a great way to differentiate the learning activities and provide support to small groups of students. Not only does station rotation help you meet all of your learners’ needs, but it also provides students with multiple activities that reinforce the learning objectives.  Give the station rotation model a try and see for yourself the impact it has on student achievement.

We think that this is one of the best ways to implement technology into the classroom and deliver content to students. What are your thoughts?

EDTech You Should Be Using #4

I thought that it would be beneficial to share a technology that can assist in supporting the well-being of both staff members and students.  The application is called Stop, Breathe & Think. This app is a free mindfulness, meditation and compassion building tool for middle-school students, high-school students, and adults.  The App is simple, fun, and easy to use. With a few clicks, you can express how you are thinking and feeling, and select emotions that guide you to recommended mindfulness and compassion-building audio meditations.  The audio meditations vary in length, but typically range from five to ten minutes. As we work to create a positive environment for both students and staff, this could be a go-to app for many. Namaste.

Lesson Plans Are Boring

Over the last couple of months I have been changing the way I describe the activities that take place in the classroom. Instead of using the term lesson plan I now say learning experience. There are many reasons for why I’ve decided to make the change, but here are a few of my favorite:

  • Learning experience last forever, a lesson last for one period.
  • Learning experience happen with students, lesson plans happen to students.
  • Learning experiences influence the future, lesson plans come and go.
  • Learning experiences are why students love learning, lesson plans are why students dislike school.
  • Learning experiences are all active, lesson plans can be passive.
  • Learning experiences transcend the classroom, lesson plans happen in the classroom.
  • Learning experiences integrate multiple disciplines, lesson plans focus on one discipline.
  • Learning experiences develop cross-curricular skills, lesson plans develop content specific skills.

It is my hope that you’ll add to our list and help start the movement to replace lesson plans with learning experiences! #DoItForYourStudents

What would you add? Leave a comment.

EDTech You Should Be Using #3

Peardeck.com

No this isn’t one of those healthy eating websites, it’s actually far better than that.  Peardeck is an engaging tool that allows you to create student focused presentations. Similar to Nearpod, Peardeck allows you to turn presentation slides into interactive activities for students.  As the instructor you control the flow of the presentation, while students respond to pre-planned or impromptu questions with a number of unique interaction types. Students can respond by dragging images, drawing on documents, writing responses, or selecting from multiple options.  Once responses have been recorded the teacher can share them anonymously and in real time with the whole class. Peardeck can be added to any Google Slide, making the creation of it simple and quick. Test one out and you’ll see why everyone loves it.

EDTech You Should Be Using #2

Kindle Direct Publishing

Telling students that they are going to write something and turn it in for a grade is a lot different than telling them that they are going to write something, publish it, and share it with thousands of readers from around the world.  Just a couple of years ago this would seem impossible, but with the new free service provided by Kindle, this can become the authentic experience we’ve all been looking for. This can be completed as an individual assignment or as a group compilation of a classes best work.  Students will be held accountable to audiences outside of their classes and participate in a learning experience that will truly have a lasting impact. We already have students writing daily, so let’s take their words and share them with the world. Give it a try and truly change the purpose of why we write in school.

Please share your thoughts.

Grades Mean Nothing

When was the last time you received a grade as an adult. You probably haven’t and if you have you probably didn’t understand or agree with it (like my D- fantasy football draft grade errr). Well, obviously, we don’t receive grades as adults because they don’t make sense. Can you imagine if your boss said, “John you did great this year, you earned a B!” What!? It just sounds funny, but yet our entire academic career is based around letters. All of one’s hard work is drilled down to five ambiguous letters. Letters don’t tell students what they can do, they don’t explain how to get better, and they certainly are not a form of feedback. To me, students either get it or not. And if they don’t get it yet, then we shouldn’t slap a big old C on them and say good enough. We should acknowledge that that individual student isn’t there yet, but we will continue to work together until they get it.

Of course I’m talking about competency based grading. And I have heard the arguments against it, but all I really hear is that a movement to a competency based system would be too difficult. Well, I hate when we decide to not do what’s right for students because we can’t figure out how to make it right for adults. Let’s just do what’s best for students. But until then, teachers can make this happen. It starts with providing students with clear success criteria, creating an environment of “not yet”, and defining letter grades. This not only creates the environment your students deserve, but also prepares you for when someone asks you why you have so many A’s in your class. Oh and the best way to answer this question is by having your students answer it for you. Make the change, because it makes sense.

Thoughts? Ideas?

EDTech You Should Be Using #1

Quizziz:

If you like Kahoot, then you are going to love Quizziz.com. Quizziz is an interactive online assessment tool that provides teachers and students with instant feedback. Teachers can create their own assessments or use one of the thousands already created by other educators. Quizziz is not only a great tool for the whole class, but it can also be used as a self-paced quiz. When students complete the self-paced homework quizzes, teacher are provided with individualized feedback on student performance (Something Kahoot does not do). Personally, I’m a Quizzizer (Not a real thing, but will be when everyone starts using it), the tool provides instant feedback and displays engaging memes after each question.  What’s not to love about it. Give it a try and become a Quizzer with me.

Let us know your thoughts!!!

What’s your crane?

Students will not appreciate your hard work every day. They won’t thank you for waking up early to set up for the exciting simulation or give you a high five for staying late to finish grading their final projects. In fact, you may have a few students that do the exact opposite.  Educators quickly learn that most of our good deeds go unrecognized. It’s part of what makes us superheroes. But, this can be difficult so it’s important that we cherish and recognize the appreciation when it comes. And sometimes it comes in the oddest forms. Like this little origami crane.

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This was given to me several years ago from a young student who had thanked me with this small, but powerful gesture.  I had no idea what the significance of it was, nor did I care at the time.  All I knew, was that it was her way of thanking me.  This student suffered from intense anxiety, she overwhelmed herself with everything and struggled to relax. Day in and day out, we would work to reflect on the things that mattered most. Even after meeting success, tears of pressure would stream down her face at the thought of not achieving high marks. But we kept at it and by the end of the year, she was able to find a balance between school and life. And on that final day of class, she showed up with this seemingly insignificant little crane and handed it to me with a smile on her face.

She never told me what it meant, but will I was writing this post, I figured I’d research it’s meaning, and this is what I discovered…

Your students appreciate you and everything you do, they just don’t always know how to tell you.  Be sure to keep an eye open for it, I know what you do is hard work and can be thankless, but keep changing lives and your crane will come one day.  That is, if it hasn’t already.

What keeps you going?

The Quit Book

Okay, so I’m going to be candid.  I have a ‘quit book.’  It is a little green journal that a student gave me years ago.  In the last week of each semester, I set the book out in my classroom and tell the students the truth.  I tell them that I love my job but that there are times when I consider running out the door.  I explain that my job can be emotionally taxing and that sometimes I get frustrated with parts of the profession they don’t necessarily see.  I tell them sometimes peripheral aspects of the job of teaching cloud what is really important, my students.  I tell this because it is the truth.  A few times a year I have a bad day and on those days, I spend my planning period reading my Quit Book.   Over the years it has been filled with pictures, drawings, notes of encouragement, and some very funny jokes.

Here is one I found the other day that I have never read before.

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The post-script alone is enough to make your head spin! I once was posed by this student with, “Mr. Culver, what is the meaning of life?”  I think I applied correctly when I answer with, “Why does the flower grow?”  It looks like she figured it out.

I read this and I remember the gravity of my chosen profession.  I become aware again and again of how much good I can do in the world.  I read this and I get to bed early because tomorrow, tomorrow I’m going back for more.

What messages keep you going?

Every Educator Needs This!

Being a teacher is the toughest job in the world. Our expectations are high and our compensation is low. We are expected to fix world problems, prepare every student for their future, and we are required to be a shinning example every second of the day.

Teaching is exhausting. With all the mandatory trainings, high stake testing, new policies, and ever changing targets, it is no wonder thousands of educators are leaving the profession each year. Even the greatest teachers have had those days where they question their purpose and wonder what’s the point? But these feelings are quickly subdued when they reach into their drawer and pull out a dusty, old yearbook to remind themselves of the lives they have touched and the success they have had.

They review pages of messages from former students that remind them of what drives them as an educator. They remember Michael, a struggling student ready to drop out, but was saved by long hours of mentoring after school.

They remember Janet, the homeless student that found a warm, safe environment in their classroom. And as they thumb through each yearbook they are reminded of the thousands of unexpected thank you’s from even the most challenging students.

These are the memories that keep teachers waking up early and staying late. These are the memories that we must remind ourselves of each and every day. Nothing else is more powerful than the messages of gratitude shared by our former students and we should no longer hide them in a drawer. These message should be shared and used as motivators for all educators. These are the messages that define our why.

Over the next several months, we want to share our messages with you and we hope you will be open to sharing with us. Together we can create a catalog of inspiration that will help each of us remember our purpose. By sharing the words of students, it will give all of us the strength to keep inspiring our students. Please join us as we share these messages and remind educators of their whys.

Ry and Justin