How do you feel about Common Core? Standardized tests? K-12 funding? These are just a few hot ticket items regarding education right now. It is easy to sit and watch the conversations happening in Des Moines or D.C., but how often do you hear experienced educators chipping in on major decisions about what is best for our schools? Maybe you voted based upon your best intentions for education, but I would argue that that isn’t enough. It is so important that we write, visit, and vocally support or disagree with our legislators so that we can continue to pursue greatness in education for the future. Afterall, if we expect students to use their voices for good we must model those actions as well. Get online, get to know the issues and your stance on them, get to know your legislators, write, Tweet, Facebook, email, call, lobby, and anything else you can. Your job is about more than what happens inside your school walls, and you’re responsible for more than just your students. Here’s a start, our President-Elect just chose the new Secretary of Education. You can read a little about Betsy DeVos’s stance on our education system and here plans here, here, and here. Do you agree? Disagree? What will you do with this information?
Being in touch with your students is a goal of any good teacher. You want to know what your students are interested in so that you can try to make use of it in your classroom. I talked to a teacher last week about a lesson she was doing in which students turned in a meme they created as their finished project. What a great way to get kids to see big picture and create something using their new knowledge. I have to ask though… why did the assignment sheet say Make a “Meme”? Why is the word meme separated? Why is it singled out or made to look special? I’d be willing to bet that to her students, memes are not anything new or special or exciting. They’re a normal part of everyday. They offer a laugh, are easy to share with friends, and might even be the only way your students get their news. We do this to our students all the time; make their normal seem abnormal. We’ve got to stop. No more, Is That “Tweet” Worthy? worksheets or “emoji” activities. Embrace their culture. Instead have them summarize the novel you read in 140 words or less by actually using Twitter. Encourage them to use emojis in their book review, what better way is there to show how it made them feel? Don’t force them to make memes, make it an option. I’d be willing to bet that your cool, hip, trendy lesson plan is old news to them, so just embrace it and leave the quotation marks at home.
As the education world continues to buzz around student-centeredness and personalized learning, teachers are stepping away from the front of the classroom and allowing their students to dive in head first and take control of their school experience. These are huge milestones which are monumental in our move away from traditional classrooms and toward a system which better prepares students for their futures in our workforce. BUT… (you had to know that was coming) I’d like to push us a step further. How many of your students know what iowacore.gov is and why we use it? I’d like to argue that the Iowa Core doesn’t need to be a secret, but instead should be used as a tool in our student-centered classrooms. Here’s why:
Students, like us, want to know why.
Maybe showing them the standards the state sets will help them understand the “why” or maybe it won’t, but here is a first step which eliminates the middleman (you) and helps students be held accountable for their performance.
Speaking of the middleman, why do we need one?
If we are truly student-centered, why does the teacher need to hold anything a secret? What is so bad about the students being involved with the whole process. I’d argue that giving your students all the information from the get-go gives them that much more of an advantage as they think, explore, and learn in your classroom.
Who is it really all about anyway?
You’re not gaining anything from keeping this information to yourself. Nothing. Nada. Relinquish control. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Face it, they're more creative than you anyway.
Your students, like it or not, probably have better ideas than you some of the time. If you hide the end goal from them (whether you realize it or not), you’re sacrificing those totally awesome, out-of-the-box ideas which rarely come from a seasoned educator. Their ideas may need some coaching, redirecting, or (hopefully) could even need to be reeled back in a ways, but there’s no harm there, and in fact that’s what you’re there for! My point is, your ideas aren’t always the best ideas, so why not give your students ALL the tools to get the very most out of their school experience?
Accountability. Accountability. Accountability.
It’s hard to hold someone accountable for something they don’t understand. How can you expect your students to meet standards they don’t know about? Give them all the information in the beginning, and use that to push them further. Set the bar high.
Your tech-savvy students won’t need help navigating the easy-to-use Iowa Core sight, so there’s nothing stopping you from letting them in on the secret. Why not? Here's a video from Palisades Community School District about their approach to personalized learning. Once you've watched, how can you take something like this and better help your students understand the why? Try showing them the CORE!
Pinterest is an awesome tool for educators to share resources, lessons, and other ideas for their classes and classrooms, but are there other ways to use this site in the classroom? Of course there are! Odds are your students know what Pinterest is. Whether it be a horror story of mom’s latest Pinterest recipe, like this one my mom thought we'd give to all the distant relatives for Christmas, or the arts and crafts project no one wants to mention, I’d be willing to bet Pinterest isn’t just a blip on the average student’s radar. So how can we utilize this awesome tool to drive learning? Pinterest may have one of the greatest organizational designs I’ve ever used. Your homepage is specifically designed to deliver pins you’ve marked as interesting to you or that you search frequently. Past that, you can follow specific topics, people, or even down to one person’s specific board. And that’s not even all. You can create your own boards, and as many of them as you’d like. This comes in handy when you remember that website from 3 months ago and really need to find it fast. If you’ve pinned it to your resources board, it’ll be right there where you left it. So what does this look like for your students? Let’s ask Pinterest! What about using it to collect useful resources for a project? It could be a get-to-know-you activity for the whole year if all your students followed one another. Maybe you could use it to organize projects and topics. The ideas are endless, and I’d love to hear your ideas! Happy Pinning!
Below I included my initial PLN Map. It is relatively sparse and a bit hard to follow. As you follow the post down to the post-map, note how much the map changed and expanded. Including the new platform I found to create, embed, and share the map!
Your Personal Learning Network may arguably be your most valuable resource in not only your career, but in your personal life as well. As I take my next steps to becoming a teacher, I have begun making conscious efforts to expand my PLN as much as possible. Here are some ways I've done this.
1. Twitter Chats
#iaedchat is something I was not unfamiliar with before this semester, however I finally began to utilize the awesome opportunity this August. Because I was very involved in studying education in high school and come from a family of educators, I knew about #iaedchat when it first began. I periodically tuned in to it on Sunday nights throughout high school and my first year of college, but never felt compelled to get involved. Since I did, it has opened so many new doors. Not only was I able to contribute to the crucial conversations being had by educators across Iowa and beyond, but I also found this Twitter Chat to be a great way to get connected with other educators and expand my PLN. This resource is great now, as an education student, because it allows me to learn from those in the field and over a wide variety of age levels, locations, and content areas. In my future career it will still allow me to learn from my fellow teachers but will also be a way for me to share my knowledge and experience. The chat I participated in on November 6th was very interesting as the topic was Parent Teacher Conferences. This is not something I have much of any knowledge on, so I learned a lot from watching, talking to educators, and contributing my ideas which resulted in feedback.
2. Using Twitter to Connect One-on-One
During the #iaedchat on November 6th I had the opportunity to ask a principle at a school in Iowa about his experiences with student-led parent teacher conferences. I replied to a tweet of his during the chat and he urged me to directly message him to discuss his experiences. He has had a lot of experience with many forms of conferences and had a lot to share. Being open to reach out to educators on Twitter like this in the future will help me to continue expanding my PLN as well as learn from others’ experiences in addition to my own.
3. Creating Educational Pinterest Boards
Pinterest is a great tool not only to share and find ideas on a variety of topics, but also makes it easy to organize these ideas. In the past I have used Pinterest to collect holiday gift ideas, online shop, and occasionally send hints to my parents about what I wanted for dinner. I have just begun utilizing this great tool for educational purposes as well. I can search a variety of educational topics and hundreds of people have probably pinned or shared their ideas on Pinterest. When I find things I am interested in, want to go back to read later, or know I’ll use a lot I can pin them to boards I have created by category. I can share these boards as well. Maybe in the future I will use Pinterest with my students to share resources or websites I think they would benefit from using. I can also use my boards to share with other educators.
Future Educator. Iowan. Passionate about People.
Dr. Z Reflects
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
The Innovative Educator
Miss Pirc's Blog
Miss Biondi's Blog