Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Power of the Network....or yelling into the void?

When I first joined Twitter, it was a fledgling enterprise.  I joined in May of 2007, just a little over a year after the launch of the site.  It was just starting to get recognition in the ed tech community.

And it was a powerful thing.

I would do presentations and ask for a shout out from my Twitter Network, and boy would they come through for me!  They would immediately start saying "hi" from wherever they were located.  It amazed the educators for whom I was presenting and really showed the usefulness of such a device.

More than that, though, if I had a question, I knew that I could go to my network and have an answer - or a collection of answers - in a matter of minutes.

Things have changed since then.  Now there are hashtags and lists.  People that used to follow me are now followed by thousands.  I think it's amazing how fast it has grown. I can't wait to see what the next big thing will be.


There's almost too much information out there now. I know that I can't keep up with all of the tweets. I certainly don't read them all. Who could?  And thus is the problem.  Today, I was asked to make a dream list of things I would want in my classroom. If money was no object, what technology would I get?  Now, I've worked in education long enough that I have made many of those lists and never seen anything.  But, with what little hope I have left, I am determined to make a comprehensive list just in case I can get even one thing.

But what to get?  1:1 technology, obviously. An interactive whiteboard would be nice. Good headsets so that I don't hear the kids recording and listening to their dialogues.  But what else?

So I turned to my network. My trust PLN will certainly help me, right?

Not one response. I even posted it a few times, just in case it was getting lost in the shuffle.  Nothing.

It reminds me of a song from a marginalized band from the 90's, Burlap to Cashmere:
Whoa....is there anybody out there?
Does anybody care?
Are the people really there?
Whoa....is there anybody seeking?
Does anybody see?
Or are they deaf and dumb like me?
Is there anyone out there anymore?  When the Twitterverse was young, people used it as a means for a brief conversation. A way to get quick answers or to end up in discussions.  But now....do we just use it as a platform to tell other people what we think?

I've been doing a lot of soul searching since my mom passed, and I've come to realize that I do far too much talking. I'm working on being a better listener - both as a teacher and as a person.  I absolutely still voice my opinion, but I try to listen to others before saying anything.  And I am learning so much.

The power of the network was one of the most awe-inspiring things I've ever seen. But now?  I wonder if it isn't just down to a few select people who are "special" enough to be heard.

So I urge you - retweet things (use the hashtag #celebratewisdom), engage in conversations. We are not alone. We are not in this alone. We are not competing for attention. Everyone - no matter how few followers they have - should feel like they are a part of the conversation and that people are there for them to answer questions, too. Imagine on how much wisdom we could be missing out on. Our PLNs don't seem to be what they used to.  How can we get them back?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Flop in the Classroom: Using Google Classroom to Flip a Lesson

As I said in a previous post, I flipped my AP Psych class last year, to tremendous success (94% pass rate on the AP test, anyone?).  Not to toot my own horn, but...you know...TOOOOT.  :)

I decided to try to do more flipped assignments and units in my intro to psych class.  I had great plans to start this day one - and then my mom passed away.  The best laid plans, right?  So last week, I was beginning to get my feet under me again, and I decided to do a split lesson. They had me for the first half of the hour, and the second half of the hour they were required to go online for the rest of the lesson. They didn't have to finish the lesson that hour, but they had only until midnight that night to submit it.  This is very rapid for an online assignment for me, as I often will try to give 2-3 nights to work on something online, since they may not have access at home.  This time, instead of using my Google site to submit the assignment, I tried it on Google Classroom.

Talk about a flop.

I imported students the night before. Super easy. Kind of a pain, but it's a one-time thing, so no big deal.  I put the assignment up.  Awesome.  Honestly, I was so excited to give out this assignment. It looked awesome.

Only 17 of my 28 students that hour could figure out how to submit the assignment.  One submitted it as a separate post in the stream. (There is currently no way to turn off the students' ability to post in the stream, by the way.)  Two submitted it (cut and pasted) in the comments of the assignment itself (also no way to turn off comments).  One handed me a paper copy. One emailed it to me.  Several didn't bother doing it for one reason or another.  What a mess!

I thought it would be intuitive.  Read the assignment, then hit the big blue "turn it in" button.  It is NOT intuitive to all students.  Do take the time to go over how to submit an assignment.  For this, you will need to have a student log in so that you can project what they see.  As of right now, teachers can't see what it looks like from the student perspective. I hope this will change soon.

Grading-wise, I love it.  All of the papers in one place.  didn't get 1700 emails (slight exaggeration) as the students shared their assignments with me.  I could even grade it right there and submit with comments to the student, so the student is alerted to when I have graded it.  Of course, then I have to submit grades into my grading program...but that's a different issue.

I think that Google Classroom will be good. I think it will be the go-to for most teachers. I'm really excited about it. I'm just also reminded what "beta" means - and that it will not be as easy for others as it is for me.

So this one didn't work out.  Should I just give up?  Of course not.  I will be trying again. And again. Until I get it right. By covering basics out of class, I have time for the application piece.  Google already knows facts. The kids need to know what to do with them - and flipping the classroom allows me time to do that.  So I will keep on keeping on.

What about you?  What happened to you when you tried to flip the classroom? What about your thoughts on Google Classroom?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On flipping the classroom, flipping out, and flipping in general.

So much has changed in the last few years...where to begin...

On a personal level, I have divorced and remarried since I last posted here. I have 2 more children than I did. I have taught at 5 schools simultaneously at which I taught 5 different preps. I finally teach an AP class.  My mother has passed away, and my father is now a permanent, daily fixture in my family.  So much change. So much stress.

And yet.

I am throwing myself into my work and am remembering how much I really love what I do. I love having students appreciate what we do for them. I love to watch them learn. I love to see former students who excitedly tell me what they're going into - and how what I did, in some small way, encouraged them to do it.  I love making a difference.

I, like other teachers, am being asked to do more with less.  I am teaching 2-3 classes simultaneously for the bulk of my day.  I can't do what I used to and expect to be successful. I am remaking my classroom.  Last year, I flipped my AP psych class to grand results.  Of the 17 students that took the AP exam in May, 16 of them passed the exam.  Of those 16, 8 received 3's, 4 received 4's, and 4 received 5's.  It was a grand success.  While I am tweaking my AP program, I will leave it as a flipped class.

Now it's time to revamp intro.  I want my intro to psych class to be fun and innovative.  I'm coming up short on activity ideas, however.  I want to make it different from AP.

So...what do you do?  How did you flip your classroom?  What classroom activities have been successful for you?

It's good to be back.

Friday, December 17, 2010

So...are they? Or aren't they?

The blogosphere is abuzz with rumors that Delicious is going to be shut down. And then there are other articles - like this one from Yahoo! themselves - that says that they won't. So what to do? Do you believe them? Do you export your stuff, only to find that you just did a lot of work that you didn't have to? Do you rely on Delicious, only to find that one day all of your precious bookmarks are gone?

So...not that you asked for it, but here is my advice. Start exporting. Move over to a different bookmarking site - like Google Bookmarks - and maintain your account at Delicious. See which one you like better. If you still like Delicious, then keep using until they shut down (IF they shut down).

To me, the end of Delicious will be an end of an era. Do we not care any longer what other people are bookmarking? If so, what will this mean for technology and the use of the internet? Will the "next big thing" isolate us more - or ultimately continue to connect us further? I can't imagine my life without the ability to search through tags and have my friends recommend pages for me. But then again, I could never have imagined myself twenty years ago with the ability to talk on a phone while driving or writing for free in a forum for the whole world. So, I guess there's that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Overly flattered, incredibly humbled

I have to admit, I was not expecting the email today. I had long given up the idea of blogging here. It's not that I don't still try to do cutting edge tech stuff in my classroom. It was that I got busy, life got complicated, and I didn't want to put my energies here anymore. Besides...no one was reading, right?

This is where I was wrong. I received an email that informed me that I am on a list of the 2010 Midwest Teacher Blogs to follow. I can't believe it - I haven't posted in over two years! Then I went to my blog and started reading it....and there are comments from this year.

I am SO sorry to those of you who have asked me questions. It might take me a bit, but I will get to answering all of them. I will post more. And finally, I will try more ideas in my classroom and post them here.

So on that note, anyone have anything they would like me to talk about? Anything you want me to try? I'm up for about anything.

Oh - and thanks for reading. I am humbled by your faith in me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What will you do different next year?

Over the past week or so, I have had a lot of time to think about how I use technology in my classroom. I am helping to create the Computer and Technology Literacy curriculum that our 7th graders will use in our district, and in so doing, have had to look at what I use in my own classroom.

My findings? I do use more than the average teacher, but I don't do nearly as much as I would like. I think for next year, I am going to try to do even more. How you ask? Just by a little creative thinking.

Here are some of my ideas for next year:
  • I am teaching a tools class - a fundamental skill-building class. I plan on using online time management applications to help them track their projects and such.
  • I also plan to show them how to keep an online portfolio, as well as online storage tools, so that "I saved it at home" is never an excuse.
  • For my French students - we do weekly dialogues, or speaking tests. Instead of having them perform them live, what if they had five minutes in class in which to record it? No notes - just them and a computer? I think that could be powerful - and easier for me to grade, too!
  • For my psych students - I did a wiki with them, but I think a weekly blog entry might be great for them to really think through what we are doing in class - not to mention make sure they are paying attention.
  • Again for psych - what if we did a cell phone poll in class? Totally anonymous, and totally fun!

I'm sure there are more, but that's what I've thought of so far. What about you? Do you have any great plans for next year?

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Summer, Education, Technology

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Okay, I'm back....or am I?

So this was a great deal longer than a 'brief' hiatus. I did, indeed, finish my Masters.  I stand now at the end of that educational road, but am wondering where I should go from here.  In terms of my education, I could become certified in educational technology, or go for me PhD. in educational technology.  Or, I could go totally crazy and become certified to teach something different altogether.  

Likewise, I stand in a similar situation regarding my blog.  I want to be innovative - to bring up thoughts and ideas that are different than what others have thought to ponder before.  Perhaps this is just year-end burn-out still talking - maybe I'm full of ideas that I haven't even come up with yet.  Or, perhaps, I am placing too much pressure on myself to be an innovator.  After all, I can be an innovator in my workplace by spouting out some of the different information that others have been touting for the past five years.  It all depends on who your audience is.
Some of my least favorite student projects have been those where it is obvious that the student has just tried too hard to impress me.  Perhaps I am doing the same thing, here.  

At any rate, I am back, and I will be posting.  If you have any topics that are of interest, please let me know.  Also - I am beginning to lay out my consulting schedule for next year.  If you want me to come into your school/district, please email me at sroustan [at] fhps [dot] us.  Happy summer!

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