There is so much that happened this year, so I apologize in advance. Most of my reflective posts are for me. Writing it helps me focus the reflection. However, there are some generally good suggestions that others can benefit from.
The biggest accomplishment was the success and joy of our BYOT^4 Club. I think the excitement of the students made me look forward to Monday (this was before #edtechat started, which also adds some spice to the normally mundane Monday). The students were so enthusiastic about the club they would offer to stay on non-club days. The club success is explained in more detail on previous blog posts (Club Inspiration and Club Reflection). I owe a huge thanks to my colleague Jordan who agreed to go on the journey before we knew where it would lead. He has been an awesome co-advisor. The final club success: two different groups of students got to present about what they had learned at club, one group presented at PETE&C (the PA state tech conference) and another group presented at the Taste of Hershey (a community fundraiser). I know the club does not sound like it directly relates to classroom learning, but it gets me to the second point of my reflection.
This year I stepped away from the step-by-step tech directions. My role was more a security net than a blanket. I felt confident doing this because each of my classes had a few club members. They had the confidence and experience to trouble shoot for their peers. On a few occasions they found a work around for me so I could focus on the instruction. I hope they continue to strive to help others. The tone of the class changed when I stopped saying exactly what technology they had to use and provided the learning goal and the end product. Students are creative in finding their own path. It was not unusual for students to take pictures of things we did or grab the embed code of something they created and post it on Edmodo. Sometimes the students would quietly record their own flipped lesson with Educreations or Fotobabble. I hope they do not lose their desire to learn and share nor the pride in creating. Even if they do not remember Spanish ten years from now, if they have the connected learner mindset, I was a successful influence in their lives. I also realized this year that some of the students lessons are ones that do not need to involve technology to be successful. Every year the students talk about the Fashion Show and the Celebrity Family Tree. When older students see the visuals, I hear the ‘remember when’ comments, and it is moving. They not only remember the fun and laughter, but they can normally recall the lesson and the intended learning goal in their own words. These lessons have minor elements of technology, but they prove that the lesson does not have to be a technological powerhouse to be good teaching. That is something I want to remember more next year.
The complete integration of Edmodo for all my classes was new this year. I played with alternative uses of the traditional features. I liked using fill-in-the-blank quiz questions as self-check activities or having short writing tasks done as a short answer quiz (easy to grade with a single click). I expanded the badges that students could earn, including a homework badge that could be revoked after the students used it.
I also improved the work flow of assignments (see above). To keep everything in a single place – submission, feedback, and grades – I changed how the students turned in work on GoogleDocs. They prefer using GoogleDocs to Edmodo for text submission because of the autosave. A compromise is to have an Edmodo assignment that they turn in the link to the GoogleDoc. Instead of just sharing the GoogleDoc with me, they change the share setting to allow anyone with the link to edit. That is the link they submit on Edmodo. It was challenging for the students to envision the first time, but it was smooth and efficient afterwards. I already mentioned that the students owned the learning space on Edmodo. Besides posting pictures and their work, they also shared useful links, challenged classmates to beat their scores on review games with screenshots, and I had a student post the daily Spanish words of the day without prompting. I was featured by Edmodo as their first Teacher Spotlight. It was a good year for Edmodo in my classroom.
This year had the highest rate of BYOT buy in, and not just because of the club. Devices are more common for middle school students and the prices have come down, so more students are trusted to bring them to school. Students have also been motivated by the age of our netbooks. After two years of hard use, none are functioning perfectly. Some of the issues are a mild annoyance, like a microphone not working. Many of the netbooks are missing random keys. Some netbooks have given up completely and will not turn on. For students who own a device, it is easier to bring their own than to find the patience to deal with mine. This has been great practice in classroom management and task creation across devices. Next year I will be in my own classroom, without the same level of technology.
This was the year of the committee for me. I was on three major committees – all relating to professional development and technology. My goal in joining the committees was to influence professional development. In an ideal world this would have inspired more teachers to want to learn and expand their classroom practice. Instead the meetings were eye opening, but not necessarily for the best. I did not really feel like my opinion mattered, which is strange since I was interviewed and quoted by Education Week on the same topic ‘Providing Credit for Teacher Online PD Efforts.’ Someone on Twitter pleaded for people to stop using the lack of time as an excuse, “we all have 24 hours in a day, it’s how you use them.” This sums up my feelings, both about the excuses and the choices.
I have taken my own advice and actively joined more Twitter chats. The number being offered in the last year has dramatically increased. Next week I promise to have a more in-depth reflection of the role of Twitter/my PLN. In short, the chats have motivated, inspired, infused, renewed, and validated my teaching. Most importantly is the self-reflective nature of the chat format. If I can articulate my philosophy and practice in 140 characters, I can explain it to colleagues clearly and concisely.
Changes to my Digital Toolbox:
Decreased use of … Voicethread, MakeBeliefsComix, StudyStack, Diigo, Say it Mail it, Moodle, and ActivInspire.