Friday, September 28, 2012

Curse Citations!

Research has really occupied my time of late. Seventh and eighth grade classes are moving full steam ahead on research projects, and I have to admit that I love every minute of it. Wow! Did I just say that I love research? When I started teaching 16 years ago (can that be right?), I hated the idea of teaching research. It was torture for me, torture for my students. This was, of course, before I understood what collaboration with a media coordinator could add to my instruction. Now, I know more about the research process and how to organize it to help students be more successful. More importantly, I know how to collaborate with the teachers at my school.

A large portion of this process is helping students understand copyright and plagiarism. Lessons on this usually focus on giving credit to the original creator of the work or citing your sources. When introducing the concept of a Works Cited page, I feel like it is always such a negative lesson. The scare tactic I have employed with students has been that you must provide citations or be accused of copying someone else's work. This then results in a lower grade. During a recent lesson, I was having my own interior monologue about needing to find a better way. What about instilling fear makes students want to provide citations? Um,  nothing. 

The solution hit me in a rare moment of clarity. We have an eighth grade language arts teacher who is extremely well-read, and it took teaching his classes to come up with that positive spin. I explained that the citation served as a path to locate the original source. I went on to explain since Mr. Bojangles (not his real name, but you already knew that, right?) enjoys learning, we want to be sure that if he reads your assignment and is truly interested in learning more, he can find the original source. His students really responded to this and to make things even better he jumped in with a story to help illustrate this point. Last year I created a sample project for a lesson I was doing. Mr. Bojangles took a lot of time looking over my project about Charlie Chaplin, and he found he had a real interest in the topic. He used my citations to locate a book I had used. He read the book in its entirety. I had actually forgotten that last part until he shared it with class, but it worked out so well that we had the conversation multiple times that day.

This allowed students to see citations in a positive light. Needless to say, I no longer feel the need to curse the dreaded citations. All it took was time and the right situation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BYOD - Bring it On!

This summer, the installation of wireless in our schools opened up doors that previously only occupied our dreams. At this time, our schools are allowed to choose how this new BYOD environment looks in our buildings. After a great deal of conversation within our school leadership team, our school decided to embrace BYOD. The possibilities are endless, but we wanted to ensure that our staff and students are ready for this. Ok, let's be honest, students are ready, but now I think our staff is ready too.

After establishing some basic guidelines, we developed a brief overview about BYOD and how it should look and function at our school. The presentation I prepared for our staff can be seen below.


The Flat Rock Freeze emerged from a conversation with my husband. He expressed concern about students being able to communicate via their devices during class. My suggestion to him was to have a hands-off moment where students place their devices on the desk and remove their hands from those devices. This allows the teacher the opportunity to see what students are doing at random intervals during the class. I mentioned this idea to my principal who felt this was a great strategy for teachers to implement into their own classrooms. In putting together this presentation, I felt that we needed a catchy name for this and the Flat Rock Freeze emerged. 

I have also partnered with one of our guidance counselors to get the word out about BYOD. Together we have worked to educate students about the proper way to use the equipment and will eventually be incorporating lessons on interacting with others in this digital environment. Together we created this video for students. 

This was shown to all homeroom classes and was accompanied by a series of discussion questions. Overall, we had a very positive response to our first focused lesson on BYOD. 

Please share what you are doing with BYOD at your school. We are constantly looking for more information to improve what we are doing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

All About Apps

While this week was a short week, the days have been long. There have been after-school commitments every day this week and to be honest I wasn't too excited about another meeting today. However, I left school at 5:00 excited to see where we are headed, inspired by colleagues, and ready to seize the day (or app as the case may be).

Last spring my principal, Scott Rhodes, purchased ten iPads which were then distributed to teachers. These teachers are going to be the leaders in our school as we move forward with iPads for our entire staff. Along with Apple TV these iPads have the potential to really enhance classroom instruction. 

Today my principal scheduled an iPad collaboration. This was just an opportunity for this group of teachers to come together and share apps that they were using. The excitement in the air and the discussion that ensued made me so thankful to work at a place where technology is embraced. It is rare that you have staff development where attendees are hesitant to leave, and we actually had that happen today. 

Here were the apps that our staff members shared today.

  • zite
  • SlideShark
  • Teacher Kit
  • Edmodo
  • iMovie
  • Math Drills
  • Flashcards++
  • Flashcardlet
  • Quizlet
  • 123D Sculpt
  • Audio Books
  • Show Me
  • National Geographic World Atlas
What made it even better was the use of our Apple TV which allowed each iPad user to take over as he or she shared an app. It allowed everyone to see what the app really had to offer. 

As we talked today, I had an idea about the use of movies. So often we have students create movies based on the content they learn, but maybe we need to be creating movies to use with students in previewing activities. Almost like a pre-learning trailer. What a great way to get students excited about what is coming up in class. With something like the iMovie app it would be a breeze to put together a quick snippet to gain student interest. 

As apps continue to grow the possibilities are endless. Looking forward to what the apps may bring.