Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thank The Tweeters

Starting Over again.

One thing about teaching...You are always starting over. There aren't many careers that offer a fresh start every year, and perhaps many would consider starting over so often daunting. However, for teachers it is a chance to reflect and renew.

As I start  again, I look forward to all of the new opportunities with my new class and question if I can do it all. Every year I wonder how can I capture my students and challenge them. What new tools and resources are there to make learning exciting and meaningful?  Can I take a whole new crop of children and turn them into writers, readers, and creators?  What can I do to make this year better than last year?

As I am looking for new projects and opportunities I am thankful that I started  tweeting. I never thought that Twitter would be so useful. It brought  many great teachers and great ideas into my life. I am joining the Gobal Read Aloud because I saw other Surrey teachers excited to take it on. I learned about Weebly from tweets and tweeters I have met and I am trying it out this year.

 So far we have created our student pages and are almost ready to publish our first entry. Every year I think this will be a big job. Every year I am wrong. The class got it right away and are already logging in and working from home. They are starting to bring in their own devices and we found some great apps to create digital portraits for our blogs. Using PowerCam and Mobile Monet students took pictures of themselves and used special effects to start their portraits. We will use new apps to merge portraits with our own artwork to create a "me" collage. If they turn out well we can make class and school portraits as well. This year I want to explore the camera and utilize it more.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Innovative Learning Year 2

Last year was a true adventure in learning for me. I have always used technology in my teaching but I have never had so many opportunities to integrate.  Access to technology, availability of new apps, online space to blog and the emergence of iPads have opened new doors to us.

 Today I went to the first Innovative Learning meeting of the year. It was exciting to see and hear of the changes moving forward in project based learning.  As part of the day's activities we re-considered our progress and re grouped for a fresh start as each of does every fall ready to take on another year of learning. We made short artifacts of the year that was as we looked ahead.

 This year I want to find new opportunities to support my class and new resources to individualize learning for each of my students. 

1. In year 1 of the Project we dabbled with Pinterest and although we only managed to dip our toes in and bookmark our work to share, I can see now that there are other great possibilities for this year. I want to set up separate boards for each child:
  •  to post links to their online blogs, movies and to post photos of their artwork;
  •  to pin the resources they find and the photos they use in their creations. This year we used dropbox but Pinterest makes it much easier to bookmark and collect resources because it is so visual.
  • one for me to post resources and links to new projects. I make webpages for each of our projects with video, links and instructions and I think Pinterest will help me organize and make them quicker to access. Also the class can add new links they find that we should use or share Then they become part of the assignment creation phase.
2. I will continue to make movies with the class. Last year we made two.  Both were follow up projects to novels. The class loved making them and it helped them develop a stronger understanding of setting, character, key events, and plotlines. They said it made them become the characters and they learned to work together and value each other. This year I would like to open up opportunities for them to use this format to make documentaries of our First Nation's workshops and research Owls. Now that Book Creator can hold videos we can embed our videos and then write about making them. Or perhaps create a book that contains them all and allow a question and answer  or comment section to go with each video. Lots more possibilities.

3. I would like to find more opportunities to give students choices. They love to take charge of their own learning. I think that after they have tried a variety of presentation and research projects they should have the opportunity and the confidence to decide which ones they want to try again.

4. Sharing. Last year we shared our books and videos at assemblies and through YouTube and our blogs but we did not have a partner class to work with to get feedback.This year I will involve at least one other class and help them to start their own class blogs,  publish ebooks and I will mentor other teachers as they work on their own class projects. Also I will find another class that is blogging and link up with them to comment and share our work and give my class an opportunity to appreciate the work of others. I want to set up groups to share online resources and ideas with others on our new Surrey Schools website and I hope others will add and share theirs with me.  I would like to find a way to meet with some of my twitter colleagues  to share,  compare, plan and engage in collaborative projects together.

5. Assessment:  Last year we did school wide writes and as I looked at the fall and the spring writes I was amazed at the growth. The new writing is focused and far more detailed. The students edited more,  their stories had better overall structure, and their voice shone through. I will need to see if the same is true next year.  When they published their research on the CPR with Book Creator they were able to publish their findings in their own words - a big step for grade four. Was this just a one time event or does blogging make such a major difference in student writing? Some of the most dramatic changes were made by my lowest students. 

Year 1 was inspiring and I am looking forward to an another great year.  I am sure that more opportunities and ideas lie just around the corner. Starting all over with a new class of "rookies"  seems daunting, but I know  that  jumping right back in always works,  the children always amaze me and the year flies by. 

On to year 2!