Sunday, September 28, 2014

(Wûrk’ shēt)

Wassup with Worksheets??

It is time for the 2nd annual No Worksheet Week, October 13 - 17, 2014! This movement was started last year by Matthew Weld and quickly went global.  To read more about the development of the No Worksheet Week Teacher Challenge you can read here, here or here.  Matt and I are collaborating on this post so we can help teachers interested in taking the challenge learn how to to go worksheet free and discover the benefits for their students as well as providing support and new ideas for past participants.

Why do we need No Worksheet Week?

Going worksheet free is about much more than not using paper.  A worksheet-free week is not necessarily paper-free.  Remember that both technology and paper are tools for learning.  What we are working toward is real learning, and worksheets do not promote real learning. Think about the last time you learned something.  Did you have to answer a bunch of true/false questions, or did you have to DO it - demonstrate mastery - in order to show your learning? In order to move away from the dreaded worksheet, we first need a common definition:  
  • Worksheets are mass-printed, either by the teacher at the copier, or by a publisher in a workbook.
  • Worksheets are given to every student in the classroom.
  • Worksheets contain questions with black & white, right or wrong answers.  For example, they may be fill-in-the-blank, true/false, multiple choice, or math computational problems.

Worksheets do not support deep thinking or reflection.  If the answer to a problem is only found in the textbook and must be copied or paraphrased on a worksheet, it only demonstrates the student’s ability to copy down information.  A completed worksheet, or getting an answer right on a worksheet, does not demonstrate understanding of the material. When I was in the classroom I used to ask my students three open ended questions about a topic; if they could answer those questions verbally and discuss the topic with me then I knew they were ready for assessment.  Try asking a student to explain and discuss material after completing a worksheet, and you will be surprised by the lack of understanding they have obtained.  According to Best Practice (Zemelman, Daniels & Hyde, 2012) meaningful and useful assessment “involves students in developing meaningful responses, and calls on them to keep track of and judge their own work.” To achieve this, we need to change the way classrooms work and we also need to involve students in activities and collaborative projects that foster discussion and deeper thinking.  

There are many ways to guide students to deeper learning as you ditch those worksheets.  Take a look at Matt’s Autopsy of a Worksheet post or Rae’s Thinglink image that takes on a 4th grade worksheet about sentence rules. You can see more examples of #NoWorksheetWeek ideas or share your own on our collaborative Padlet wall.

The two big ideas of #NoWorksheetWeek

  1. Increase the 4C’s - Creativity, Critical thinking, Collaboration and Communication in the classroom.
  2. Bring relevance to learning through real world applications of learning and authentic assessment.

What does a worksheet free classroom look like?

Please participate in the No Worksheet Week Teacher Challenge and share your experiences using the hashtag #NoWorksheetWeek.  We will be sharing some of your best ideas on our blogs, so get creative!

You can also join our Google+ Community

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sharing: My key to great'edu'ness

Day 10 of the Reflective Teaching 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers is about sharing.

Sharing is a big part of my personal learning network (PLN). I share with others in hopes they can learn from it or use the information.  Others share with me and that is where I get my EDU Super Powers.  The magic of my PLN is evident daily. In fact today, A teacher told me: "You always find interesting stuff to help teachers, when you find topics related to my subject, can you send them to me?" It pays to have a #PLN and I truly believe we are #bettertogether

And now I will share with you!

5 Random Facts About Myself
  1. I make the best chocolate chip cookies
  2. I used to play the oboe and even made my own reeds for a short time
  3. 1st Wave is one of the saved channels on Sirius radio in my car (Bonus points if you know what music they play)
  4. One summer I worked as an animal trainer at Marine World Africa USA
  5. I don't drink coffee - never have

4 Things From My Bucket List
  1. Travel to Madagascar to see the Berenty Lemur Preserve (I once hand raised a Black and White Ruffed Lemur and named him Berenty)
  2. Publish a book (I started a children's book about Berenty the lemur)
  3. See tigers in the wild
  4. Take a year o ff to travel the world
  5. Own a maserati

3 Things I Hope For This Year 
  1. Both of my kids complete a successful, first year of college
  2. To continue to help teachers use technology effectively to support student learning
  3. A new maserati! :)

2 Things That made Me Laugh or Cry As An Educator
  1. When my oldest son graduated from high school one of his best friends did not. He was a few units short of graduation.  My husband and I invited him to live with us and I helped him each day work towards finishing his units so he could get his diploma.  I remember after he completed his work we drove to the school so he could pick up his diploma. When he got back to the car with it in hand he declared, "I got it!"  This made me both laugh and cry.
  2. My first year of teaching I taught high school science. One young man who was a good foot taller than I derived pleasure from trying to break me. In fact he told me once that he was there to do just that. I remember one time he hid in a closet during class to try and frazzle me, didn't work, and eventually he just came out and we moved on with the lesson.  The funny thing is years later I saw him and he ran up, hugged me and said he really like me as a teacher and was sorry he was so 'hard' on me but that I took it well. 

1 Thing I wish More People New About Me

I am actually an  introvert, but with a passion for teaching

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Desk -- #ReflectiveTeacher Blog Challenge Day 8

Today's challenge was to describe what is in my desk drawer and discuss what I can infer from those contents.  I have a glass top desk (ikea: vika gruvan) and so anyone can easily see what is in my desk.  Now what does this say about me? You tell me! Please feel free to analyze me in the comments below.

I think my desk contents are pretty typical for most educators. There is lots of stuff and a mound of things in need of attention. Educators are so busy these days that time for organizing, responding and reflecting is rare.  My desk reflects that I am busy, involved in many projects and a bit of a tech geek.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reflective Teaching 30 Day Blog Challenge Day 5 - My Classrrom

Day 5: Post a picture of your classroom and describe what you see....and what you don't see that you would like to.

For three years now I have not had my own classroom.  I help teachers integrate technology into learning, which takes me in to many classrooms.  In these classrooms I see students using technology more than ever before.

1st grade students creating books

A 3rd grade student working on her first Google Doc

One of my favorite photos: demonstrating the importance of mobile devices
to allow students to move and find the right 'space' to learn

What I would like to see more, is collaboration and sharing. Critical learning is missed when we don't encourage students to explain their thinking, share their ideas and collaborate to solve problems.  As we start this new year I hope to be able to create more opportunities like this for students.

Students collaborating on their coding projects

While working with 5th grades students on coding projects I observed many instances of spontaneous collaboration.  Students would group up to discuss how to solve a problem or to share a new accomplishment. We also encouraged students to share each stage of the process as they were creating with the class by projecting their working via Apple TV and the projector.

This picture is awesome because it shows students working together in informal groups
and you can also see that students are watching someone sharing their work
with the class via the projector. So much collaboration and sharing!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reflective Teaching 30 Day Blog Challenge - Day 4

What do I love most about teaching?

Igniting a passion to learn is the best part of the job.

It doesn't happen as often as I would like, but it is rewarding to see learners smile and get excited about new ideas or acquired skills.  These days I mostly work with teachers, but I try to get in the classroom as much as possible.  I work hard to address the needs of all learners in my classes and workshops. It feels good when a session ends and a teacher tells me thank you usually followed up with, "I don't know how you handle all of our questions". The truth is that when I can help teachers or students navigate new learning I feel great. Let me just take this opportunity to say thank you to all of the wonderful people I get to learn with everyday.

Teachers in Lake County sharing their learning
about Google Apps and SAMR

Del Norte USD teachers learning to code
for the Hour of Code event 2013

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reflective Teaching: 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day - 1, 2 & 3

I have officially accepted the +TeachThought 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers. Using their list of topics for the month, I will reflect on my practice and blog (at least a little) each day.  It is already three days into the month and I am just starting so I hope it is ok to combine the first three days into this one post.  If you are reading this, please join me and start the challenge today. Even if you are late getting started (like me) it is always beneficial to reflect on what we do as educators.

Here are the three topics for this post:

Day 1
Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!
One goal for this year is to build capacity among teachers in my district to support educational technology integration into the classroom.  I hope to train a cohort of teachers to be technology leaders at their school sites to support the use of technology to improve student learning.
Another goal is to increase blended and online learning opportunities for teachers and students.  Well designed online and blended programs provide personalized and differentiated learning environments for students.  When teachers are skilled at teaching with this format they are better able to meet the needs of all students. I truly believe that digital tools give every student a voice and creative outlet to share their learning and ideas.
Day 2
Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.
This year I want to implement a Wordpress site with badge integration to create a personalized, online learning portal for teacher professional development in our county.  This idea came from the World of Learning platform at New Milford High School. So far,  the Wordpress site has been set up and the badge plug in has been installed.  Now, I need to create the content and then introduce teachers to it.  I am looking for ways to make this type of learning meaningful to educators and would love to hear from others who have experience with gamified or badge enhanced teacher learning programs.
Day 3
Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.
Motivating and supporting teachers to learn to use technology to modify and re-define lessons is a focus for this year.  Just like our students, sometimes teachers get a fixed mindset about their ability to successfully integrate new technologies into their teaching.  I want to find out what those teachers need to break free from the chains of feeling fearful or frustrated by technology so that their students are able to experience learning that is relevant and builds needed technology skills.