Monday, February 27, 2012

The Homework Stalker

The school year is now thoroughly into the swing of things. My students' first assessments are rolling in. The first step of my first PBL trial is due tomorrow. Operation google docs collaboration is under way. Project Edmodo begins tomorrow. My kids are tweeting and emailing me homework questions. Ladies and gentlemen, if I didn't know any better, I'd say I was a technology teacher! But more than that, I am a homework stalker...

  • The class trialling my first homework PBL (project based learning) has their own blog  where I have posted the assignment sheet, as well as all the notes, activities, videos and any extras we have covered in class. The first part of their assignment is due tomorrow. Just look at the google stats for today! 

  • For another class I have used their blog to guide them to share google documents with me where they are completing their homework questions in. I can see when they last accessed the homework, leave comments for them, and if I catch them at the right moment, I can even see as they are typing.
  • This same class will be introduced to Edmodo tomorrow. In Edmodo I can set quizzes for the students and have their results directly collated and recorded on my own Edmodo account.
  • I also set 'leave a comment' on today's blog post as homework for another class. My smart phone lets me know the second they leave a comment so I can moderate them on the spot. 

Moral of this story? Tech savvy teachers no longer have to 'fly blind' until the due date. 
Tech savvy teachers remind our students that their homework is due because we can see they haven't looked at it yet!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mini goals 3 - Do they care about the right reasons?

Teacher unions, governmnets, teachers, middle management, senior management, curriculm heads, parents. They all have a lot to say about education. The internet is lit up with education reform talks. Parents think teachers don't know what they are doing. Teachers who got left behind. Teachers who think they are brilliant but are not. Teachers who really are amazing. Governments who argue about more tests. Governments who argue about less tests. Teacher unions who argue against merit pay. Teachers who moan about middle management. Management who micromanages. Managments that don't do enough. Schools that sell themselves as excellent. Schools that really are excellent.

There is so much politics in education, on the small and large scale, that I am starting to wonder how many of the decision makers make their decisions based on the students and how many have ulterior motives. It is for this reason that my mini goals this week are as follows:
  1. Ask the students how they would like to learn about a topic. Work with their ideas to show them that their voice matters.
  2. Provide those students who clearly struggle to write in their books with an alternative method
  3. Encourage students to make mistakes. As is so typical, most students will leave an answer blank rather than guess, and then wait for me to put the answer on the board so they can make sure they got it 'right'. I need to encourage my students to learn from their mistakes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mini goals 2

This week has been the week of blogs. I have set up a class blog for my classes and so far it seems the kids (and the other staff) are intrigued enough to show some interest. It has resulted in a busy online week though. And reflection has occurred under a hot shower and on the drive to school. So my mini goals this week...
1. Flipped class trial 2 - too many online issues this week. I will need to try this again. I perhaps have a backup plan as there are still a few students who struggle to get internet access.
2. School involvement  - I need to know the kids well to be able to connect with them. Find that extra curricular activity...
3.  Plant a super lesson - Throw something at each class once this week that they never would have expected. Show them that science and maths breaks the boundaries.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Week of Why

I am trying to make my teaching more relevant. It is a work in progress. I am trying to choose examples that kids will actually use. I am trying to choose projects that apply to their lives. I am trying. Last week Simon Sinek inspired me to sell the why. That is, "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it".
I am a work in progress. This week I have had a 'why' part to every lesson, I have even added a 'why' part to the top of my task sheets and maths exercises. As a result, I have started to question every part of my lessons. Why does it matter what I am doing? Why am I doing this activity? Why Why Why. I even dreamt in why this week. It has been a brutal week under my own personal scrutiny. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Or in the case of teachers, bad grades and unhappy, disengaged students. Why does matter, but once you have sold the why, the how and what takes the place, and even if you have the right goal in mind, you need to deliver the goods. So now, I am not only asking myself why the work is relevant and important for the students to know, I am also asking myself what and how can I best present the information so that they see the relevance and learn the content. All of this whilst still keeping to the curricullum. I started this week on a high. I finish the week with a reality check. I need a great product to sell with a good marketing strategy to sell it with. Let the hard work begin.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Considering that there are 7 billion people on earth currently, and how many more before us, there are very few people who really change the world, whether it be for the better or the worse. Simon Sinek might not have changed the world, but in 18 minutes he changed mine. For my personal goal of making my teaching more relevant, this is just what I needed. It's all about the WHY.

I have a dream.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mini Goals and Reflections - Week 1

Maths class 1995-2005 x5 lessons per week x40 school weeks in the year x12 years of school
Step 1: Come into class
Step 2: Copy theory
Step 3: Listen to explanation
Step 4: Complete practice questions
Step 5: Do homework

We need notes to remind us of what we have learnt. We need to practice questions to check our understanding . We need homework to ingrain what we have learnt. But does it have to be about Susie who went to the market to buy oranges with her pocket money? Why couldn't I use my own pocket money to buy the stuff I actually want and then see if I was more interested? I rather like the way Mr Meyer thinks in this video. Make the students watch as that water tank fills up, let them role their eyes at how long it is taking. Who wouldn't want to know the shortcut?

Goals for the week:
  1. Get students set up on either twitter (for maths class) or blogspot (for science class) - add links to easy to manage lists for future use. Elaborate about netiquette and safety by doing a SWOT analysis with class.
  2. Trial one flipped lesson. That means give students a short video to watch for homework and a simple activity to complete that relates directly.
  3. Get to know the students. Learn every name and two other things about each students' interests.