One of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more reflective online. I reflect SO much in school in my head, but I am not very good about turning those reflections into action. I believe that part of my problem is that I don’t hold myself accountable to my reflections. I think that if I set up a regular blog posting day either once a week or every other week that I can do a much better job of turning my reflections into actions. I am leaning toward every other week. That way, on the off weeks I can devote my extra time to reading other people’s blogs for inspiration.
Let’s start this reflection thing off on a good note by discussing some of the high parts of this past semester:
1.) I have become very adept at using my SmartBoard. Earlier this year, I was basically afraid of using SmartNotebook and my flatpanel. I’ll admit that I started the year using my document camera because of this fear. However, now not only do I write my lessons using SmartNotebook (no more paper to computer transcriptions like back in September) but I have integrated Geogebra directly into my lessons! I’m proud of how far I have come.
2.) I have been very successful at integrating Chromebooks into my lessons on at least a weekly basis.
3.) I’ve been able to find a much better work/life balance. School work is done (for the most part) AT SCHOOL and home work is done (for the most part) AT HOME. I used to take a bag home and feel disappointed with myself when I didn’t do as much as I wanted over the weekend and similarly when I would try to do home tasks (writing meal plans, grocery lists, Amazon shopping etc) on my planning period. By having the separation between the two I feel much more present and I think my kids can feel it too.
Last week our district deemed Thursday “too cold” to go to school. With final exams on the horizon, I wanted to give my students a way to ask questions on the day before finals even if we were not in session. Thus, I began a search for the best means to do this activity.
I typically use Remind in my classes. I have about half to three quarters of each class using the app. I have tried to give students incentives in order to get better participation and this year I’ve made my best effort yet to keep it current with all of the assignments and notes from class. I discovered today that students can send you an image in their comments which I was unaware of before today. That will be useful if students have home questions in the future. I really wanted students to have access to live streaming video of questions and answers, which currently is not available on Remind.
My first venture was into Google Hangouts or YouTube Events. I already use a variety of Google products and am incredibly happy with everything that I have used (GMail, calendar, forms, drive, docs, etc). I like the free-ness (always a big thing for my teacher budget) and I like how easy it is to share. I like how easy it is to see comments regardless of when they are made (which would help in my tutoring/teaching situation) and the automatic upload to YouTube for future reference was awesome. My only issue with this platform was the need to create a Google account if you want to participate in the Hangout. That didn’t really jive with me as I unfortunately have some students who are not allowed to get Google accounts per their parents.
My next attempt was to use Periscope. Periscope is really simple to set up and they make it easy to publicize your event though Twitter without requiring a login (which was my only major problem with Hangouts). I do not like how the comments appear and then disappear. If I was in the middle of explaining something I would not like to have the comment disappear. Other than that though, I liked the platform.
With the possibility of more snow days to come, I liked these experimental days because now I know what I would be getting into if I did indeed need to use it. Apparently, even with double digit sub-zero temperatures my district did not deem it necessary to take the day off – for which I am grateful as now I will have one more day in May to play in the warmth. Moving forward I plan to survey my students to see how big of a problem the lack of Google accounts truly is versus the ease of Periscope but disappearing comments.
Today my students reviewed for an upcoming assessment using Quizlet. Quizlet is an online social vocabulary review application. After you create a study set (or find one in their library), you can choose from a variety of options. Similar to the old school flash cards, there are spots for terms as well as their definitions. You can decide how to use these. Basically students will make matches to “play” the various reviews. The option I used in class was quizlet.live. Students log in using a class code. Students are then divided randomly into teams. Each individual needs their own device. The answer cards are distributed evenly among the teammates. The correct answer may or may not be on your screen so students have to work together. Answering wrong will drop the team score down to 0 so students have to get 12 correct in a row to win the game. It was great to hear how they engaged with the activity. Some students were actually talking in small groups which was awesome to see. I was impressed that even in my most difficult class that students were working together (eventually). I highly suggest the activity. Not for EVERYDAY but it was certainly a good change from using the ever popular kahoot.com (my favorite game platform). You will have to upgrade to include diagrams, BUT there are lots of other study sets in the library to choose from so you might find something that someone else used that will work.
Today, I went to a PD session offered during the school day with our district tech coach. I originally planned NOT to go as the presentation was about tech games to use in the classroom and I am already familiar with several of the platforms she was presenting on (Kahoot, Socrative, etc). However, I went anyway for the quick CPDU (you never know when you will need it) and I like the presenter. I was so glad that I did. Not only did she reintroduce me to a couple of programs that I had learned about but not implemented in my class, but we had the opportunity to play with Formative. Formative is a SUPER quick and easy way to get formative feedback from students. You can grade their work in real time, they can draw on diagrams (this is big for the Geometry teacher that I am) and there are plenty of well done free features. I am super excited to go and try that. Had I not gone to the presentation, I probably would’ve back burnered this application and may have missed out on a opportunity to put it into action in my classes.
The second revelation of the day was the idea to “circle back”. This is huge when it comes to educational technology. I tend to be slightly snobbish about educational technology. I want it to do what I want, when I want, and not crash in the process. I want good usable data, I want to manipulate all aspects of the software. If I deem that the product is not 1.) more efficient than a classroom traditional tool 2.) not stable enough to withstand 30 students accessing it at the same time 3.) providing me with everything I want, I typically write it off, and don’t look back. Today, on a couple of occasions I learned that the circle back is important. One of those instances happened early in the day. For kicks I decided to see if I could sync my various mail accounts on my MacBook’s mail program. In the past, this wasn’t even possible as my Apple stuff did not play nicely with Microsoft Exchange. However, today, everything seamlessly synced! This is HUGE. I’ve wanted to use the power of the search functions available on my Mac with the contacts at school. I am super excited. Only downfall is I completely crashed my computer when I synced my Gmail but I can handle that problem.