Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Confession is good for the soul

The topic of our most recent #NYCSchoolsTechChat on Twitter was Teacher Report Cards. We looked back on our year and gave ourselves a grade. We shared what we succeeded at, and what we came up short on. 
Naturally, we didn’t focus on how well we did this year. Like every other normal person we only focused on our flaws. I can have this conversation in my own head every day, but when we put words to these ideas and post them for our colleagues to see, it’s a little humbling.
One could argue that you shouldn't achieve all your goals, you should have some goals that are just out of reach, to keep you reaching and growing. I agree with that but it's still tough to admit you could have served your kids better and you didn't.
My big take away is that I'm very lucky. From what everyone posted, you could see that we all wanted to be better. We all tried to reach a new level in something. I get to hang around with people who are trying their best and they inspire me to try my best also. We were comfortable enough with each other to confess our shortcomings in a supportive environment. It was a relief to realize that while I’m not perfect, neither are my colleagues. They are amazing though, and for that I’m grateful.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

In defense of a small corner of Facebook

Where’s the first place you go when having a problem in your tech room?
For some it may be putting a call into the help desk. Some schools might have a ticketing system where support may come in a few hours or a few days. Others may have no support at all.
For me I have what some may think is an unlikely resource:
I go to Facebook.

Not just my regular Facebook feed; that’s becoming more filled with ads every day. I go to the #NYCSchoolsTech Facebook page.
Is the internet down throughout the city, or just my room? How do I re-image this laptop? I’m getting a weird message on my smartboard that was working yesterday.
Does anyone have any great lessons to share using Kahoot? Now that Padlet is for fee, what are some alternatives? Does anyone have ideas for a parent engagement activity on digital citizenship?
Anyone know of a job opening? I need to get out of my school!

All these and more are asked and answered on the page. It’s a closed group of over 3000 of the best and brightest New York City has to offer. We are there for each other.
We post about events coming up, try to come up with creative ways to acquire funding for our technology centers, and thank our colleagues for always coming to the rescue.

Nothing beats it for speed and accuracy. If my technology or internet is acting weird, I can go online and see within minutes if others are having the same issue. The Department of Ed help desk even posts updates on issues and how soon it will be fixed. I’m sure that makes their jobs easier too, rather than answering the 50 emails or phone calls they would have gotten asking the same question.

Great ideas for your classroom, how to deal with being the SPOC in the building, it all happens on the Facebook.

You can complain about Facebook if you want, but if you have anything to do with technology in NYC Department of Education, it’s a comfort to know that there are some wonderful people out there who’ve got your back.

Friday, May 4, 2018

My favorite lesson for the end of the year.

What do I do with my students? How do I keep them engaged at this point in the year? I have the solution.

One of my favorite lessons happens around this time of the year. My students open up the time capsule they created in September. In it they answered a bunch of questions, so when they open it in June they see how their answers have changed to those questions.

It's one of my first lessons for the year. It's a quick way to get to know my students, and an easy way to introduce some slideshow tools.

One of the first slides is a Table of Contents listing all sorts of things about the student: their favorite movie, their best friend, how the first few days in a new school went for them. I then teach them to hyperlink those items to the corresponding slides in the presentation.

It's in their google drive for safe keeping, and right around now we open it back up again. Since they're mature, sophisticated, almost 7th graders, the answers they gave as tiny little newbie 6th graders sometimes make them laugh. They create new slides and answer the same questions again, noticing how much they've grown and changed over the course of the year.

It's a good lesson to show them how much they've grown, and to be proud of how far they've come in a year. I'm thinking I should create one for myself, and see how my answers change from the beginning of the year. After all, I should be growing too.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Here's where it gets interesting.

The state tests will be done soon and that's usually when most students and even some teachers check out for the year. I always feel differently. While the pressure of the test is gone, now the fun can start. I can experiment and play a little. I explore other resources and test out new sites.

Since everything I wanted to cover in the curriculum is done and all the grades I needed are in, the things I meant to try all year have worked their way to the top of the To Do list. Here's where I can work on projects now so they can blend seamlessly into next year's lessons without too many bumps in the road. I can plan lessons that I'm not too sure about.  I listen intently to the student's feedback about these new items.

This is the time of the year where the real growth can happen. What are you going to play with this month?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

It’s not just about the badge

I completed the EVERFI Certified Teacher Program (CTP) last year, and it has made all the difference in not just my EVERFI teaching, but my teaching skills overall. I know it’s neat to get a nifty badge to post on your social media sites when you finish a certification, but that wasn’t the prize. I’m an all-around better teacher because of this program.

What I got out of it as a teacher.

This certification program made me consider my role as an educator. Since the program asks you specific questions about how you are implementing EVERFI in your classroom, it made me reflect on my teaching. How can I best implement this curriculum? What am I doing to prepare my students to learn this material? Am I making it as easy as possible for the learning to happen? What more can I do for my students?

What I got out of it as a collaborator.

If you’re like me, you’re the only teacher in your school using EVERFI. The great thing about CTP is that it connects you with people all over the country who are also using EVERFI’s resources in their classrooms. Everyone in the program was so generous with their thoughts, ideas and responses to the online discussions. It was also a great place to share other online resources, and learn how other teachers were using EVERFI in their classrooms. Some teachers had outside speakers from banks come speak to their classes about money skills. Some teachers had graduation ceremonies at their school assemblies. We tell our students to collaborate and work in groups; we should be doing it too. We all got better because we all helped each other.

Online discussions and resources from everywhere.

Periodically throughout the six weeks, the CTP moderator would post relevant articles for us to read and discuss. Some were about the philosophy behind self-guided online learning, and others were focused on the importance of teaching financial literacy in today’s classroom. These articles would start a lively discussion every week. It wasn’t our only online discussion, but they were thought-provoking and we got to know each other a little better. I now know teachers from everywhere.

My PD on my time.

The best part of CTP is that it happened when I wanted it to. Since it was online, I could work on it at my own pace. You don’t sit in a room for a day trying to stay awake and then forget everything you learned the minute you leave. This program is over the course of six weeks, which gives you time to plan, execute, and reflect on how the course worked in your classroom. Any questions or concerns were addressed as they occurred. Instead of running into a problem and getting no support after a traditional PD day, I could ask for help, and ten teachers would respond within a few hours. I firmly believe that giving teachers time to do the work and supporting them through the process was the key to the success of the implementation.

All certification programs should be like this.

As the only tech teacher in my building, talking about technology curriculum with someone is a rare event. CTP made me feel like a part of a team. I’m now EVERFI certified because of this program, but I feel like I am so much more.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

One Good Deed Deserves Another

I read George Couros' book The Innovators Mindset recently. It was enlightening to say the least. There was so much in the book that I wanted to implement in my classroom, so I created an infographic about the book's main points. Since I post my work online (as you see if you scroll through my blog) I didn't want to create it and publish it without George knowing. I also wanted to make sure he was OK with my interpretation of his work. I emailed him and he promptly responded that he was flattered. He loved the infographic and told me I should tag him in the graphic so he sees it when it goes online. I was happy, relieved, and did just that.
What I wasn't expecting is that he then posted my infographic on his website. Teachers from across the country were complimenting me on my work. My infographic blew up on Twitter. Teachers were asking me if they could print it out and hang it in their classroom. I was honored. Something I created would end up all over the country.
It didn't end there. George then wrote a post about what I did. The fact that I asked permission first and properly accredited his work is not something that happens all the time. He is frustrated by how many times he sees his work being used by other educators and claimed as their own. I did the right thing, and that is actual news. Sad, but common place in this day and age.
The fact that I was teaching a lesson to my students about having a positive digital footprint was an added benefit. I was able to model for my students that doing the right thing can sometimes be a great thing. I had the proof.