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“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving…”

-Goethe

I learned a lot during my first term as a Developmental Educator for college freshman.  To continue moving forward, I have decided on the following three goals for the upcoming winter term.  We are on the quarter system, where a term lasts 10 weeks.

  • Feedback – I will provide students with timely feedback.  As I’ve said before, I feel that quality feedback is an area that should be continuously worked on.  While in the past I’ve also focused more on informative and specific feedback, I’ve decided to work more on the timely aspect this quarter.  I feel I am giving informative and specific feedback.  However, I have noticed that my tendency towards perfectionism in those two areas has bogged down the grading process.   With only 10 weeks in a term, it is crucial that students know how they are doing right away.  My motto has become “Prompt, not perfect feedback.” (Thanks Molly Smith!)  This is one of the reasons why I am having students turn most assignments in using Google Docs.  I tend to do better with electronic feedback rather than toting around the stacks of paper.  Since I have a toddler running around, I do a lot of sporadic grading (a few papers here and there instead of all at once).  Doing it electronically helps me to keep track of where I am without my daughter trying to use a stack of papers as confetti.  🙂  Typed comments also take much less time than handwritten ones, so I am more efficient.  Side note: I will be thinking about how I can use Standards Based Grading practices in my CORE 101 the next time around.  I am thinking of setting up a mastery learning system for study skills.
  • ConnectionsI will better emphasize the connections between class activities, course assignments, and how they are related to the life of students at EOU.  Thanks to inspiration from a colleague who is great with the big picture, I realized that my courses need to be a more coherent whole.  It can be easy to get caught up in specific study skills, reading strategies, and what not and lose site of the overall purpose.  I will strive to make clear connections for my students so they see how things are integrated.  This will hopefully help them easily transfer what they learn to the rest of their college education.  I will do this by stating specific connections more often, planning more from the big picture than just teaching isolated skills, and pushing students to make their own connections.
  • Instructional MethodsI will diversity the instructional methods I use in class.  I realized over the past term that as I was learning the ropes of my new job, I tended to fall back on the instructional strategies I found most comfortable.  I need to go back to the drawing board and review a multitude of strategies to find those that will best help my students learn.  I noticed that many of my students are more hands-on, so I need to do more in that area in particular.

Do you have any feedback or advice on these goals?  I would appreciate any advice, resources or insights.  What are your goals?  I encourage you to post them here or elsewhere.

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Behind my Wyoming neighborhood, where the Oregon Trail comes through.

Earlier in the year, an experienced teacher and parent asked me “With the baby, doesn’t this feel like your first year of teaching all over again?”  I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but yes! It did feel that way.  And just like my first year of teaching, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a good educator.

Here is the summary of how I did on my 4th Quarter goals.

Assessment – I will work to deliberately define for students what they are expected to learn.

Progress: I continued to develop and use the unit outlines in U.S. History.  These were helpful in keeping me on track when other topics tempted me. (“Liz, you don’t have time to teach everything about the Vietnam War.” But it’s all important! Haha!)  I think these will also be helpful when I go back to teach these units again.  I will continue to use this strategy, but with more of an emphasis on student use.  I may also tweak them from an outline to some other formats I’ve seen.

Feedback – I will provide students with more informative, specific and timely feedback.

Progress:  I felt that things went a little better here this quarter, but I will always continue to work on this area.  I began utilizing more formative and summative assessments.  Since I feel to strongly about the importance of good feedback, I will be making this my main focus when I get back into the classroom.

Parental Communication – I will communicate more regularly with parents by calling or communicating by email with a minimum of 20% this quarter.

Progress:  I had some great conversations with parents that I believe benefited my students.  While I didn’t meet my quantified goal, I feel pretty good about the communication that I did have.  I always think of a former colleague who called every student’s parents at least twice a semester.  This is something I would like to do in the future.  Parent communication is an important facet of feedback and I will continue to strive to improve in this area.

Efficiency – I will become more efficient with my planning time, feedback, and various other responsibilities while maintaining quality standards.

Progress: I reorganized the class calendars in FirstClass to be easier to follow and use.  I need to carve out an uninterruptible time to make sure they are all updated daily.  I have started to do research on using Moodle instead of FirstClass since the later just doesn’t seem to be user-friendly enough for my students.  I spent a lot of time correcting confusion on how to use FirstClass.  The Instructional Facilitators were great about setting up times to plan with me, since I do big picture planning better in a collaborative environment.  I was able to give students feedback more frequently by focusing on grading small amounts more frequently rather than large marathon grading sessions.  I had good conversation with Molly Smith on Twitter, who pointed out “kids need prompt not perfect feedback,” because it keeps you and your students better informed.

Overall – As I mentioned earlier, I learned a lot this year about being a better teacher.  With so many new things going on in my life, it did feel like I was first year teacher again.  It was good for me to see things from a new perspective and to struggle through challenges I’d already conquered in a different context.  This is due in no small part to my amazing colleagues, both online and offline.  I am thankful for all of you.

Next Time Around – Due to my relocation to Oregon, I am unsure when I will be in the classroom again or where it will be (Apply for my fantastic job in Wyoming!).  However, I wanted to document that my focus for future teaching endeavors will be on quality feedback.  I believe this is the heart of good teaching and learning and there needs to be a continuous conversation between teacher and student.

I just wanted to take a moment and thank Molly Smith, Shawn McCusker, Jamie Josephson, and Analiese Smith for a great conversation we had on Twitter regarding reflection.  It gave me a lot to think about and I appreciate your insights.

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How would you like to teach history in a place like this?  Known for its Collegiate Gothic architecture, Natrona County High School is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It had the first indoor poor in the state of Wyoming, the second oldest JROTC unit in the United States, and is a 1:1 High Access school.  These are only some of the pieces of NCHS’s innovative history.

I love teaching here.  However, after a great job opportunity came along for my husband, it is time for my family to move on.  I want to be sure they have some great candidates to choose from, so I decided to write a little about the job here.  Maybe you’d like to consider applying?

Here is the official job posting.  It doesn’t give you a lot, so here is some additional information.

Technology – As I mentioned before, NCHS is a 1:1 High Access school.  This means that the ratio of laptops to students is 1:1.  Each student is issued their own MacBook with a great variety of software to use in class and to take home.  Along with a bent towards more liberal internet filtering policies, this provides great opportunities for the use of technology in the classroom.

Instructional Facilitators – Also known as Instructional Coaches, these master teachers are available to help you with your individual professional development needs.  They provide a myriad of optional services tailored to individual teachers, as well as some college credit courses.

Professional Learning Community – NCHS will be entering its first year of official PLCs.  I know people have different opinions of PLCs, but in this particular Social Studies Department, I see PLCs as a major strength.  NCHS will be implementing a late start for students on Wednesdays to provide built-in collaboration time for teachers.  In a department that already works very well together, PLCs are a bonus.

Funding – Lately, Wyoming seems to be one of the only states that is operating in the black.  This, plus a state emphasis on education, has resulted in Wyoming being 6th in the nation in student spending (an average of $14,573 in 2008-2009).  For someone who started their teaching career in the Michigan recession, being able to get adequate classroom supplies is an important consideration.  And while salary is not my largest consideration for a job, the pay scale is competitive and if you are a National Board Certified Teacher, you receive an annual bonus from the State of Wyoming.

Classes – While I am unsure which classes will be shuffled and assigned to the new hire, I do know that it would most likely involve 2 preps.  The mainstays of the department are 10th grade Modern U.S. History and 11th grade World History.  We have honors and IB courses and several more specific electives (Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, World Religion, Asian Studies & African Studies). Our 9th grade Academy style position has already been filled.  We are on an alternating A/B 90 minute block schedule.

The Staff – I can’t say enough about the staff in this building.  When I came to NCHS, they welcomed me with open arms and did everything they could to help me out when I had my daughter.

The Social Studies Department – My number one reason for working at NCHS is the Social Studies Department.  They are a wonderful group of professionals who are passionate about educating students.  This is a “low drama” department that works hard to take care of one another and their students.  They cultivate a collegial and collaborative atmosphere.  They are a team that is always willing to share materials, help problem solve, and innovate new approaches to the curriculum.  I love them and the hardest part about moving is having to leave this family.

If you are interested in this position, go here to see the steps to apply.

Note: I am posting about this opportunity because I want to help make sure the department has some quality candidates.  While I am happy to answer general questions, please keep in mind that I am NOT involved in any way with application reviews or interviews for this position, and I am unfamiliar with the district’s new hiring process.  The NCSD Human Resources Department will be more than happy to answer any questions about applying for this position.  Good luck! 🙂

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I am currently teaching an optional course for our teachers on Embedding Technology.  Our last class was an introduction to Twitter.  During the class, I asked for responses from my PLN to the question “How do you find useful education professionals to follow?” The teachers in my class requested that I post the responses in an easy to read format, so I chose to use my blog for this purpose.

Picture 1

TwitterResponse2

Here are some live links to the websites included in some of the responses:

A big thank you to @turrean @edt727 @web20classroom @MikeMcilveen @dpeter @SErwin @dhanson39 @elkedas @griffinmaus @aoakes4 @andyblanco @isamaria for interacting with my class!  Please feel free to click on the link to their Twitter user names if you would like to follow them.

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Through my work with many students in the area of study skills, I have learned how helpful developing and stating a goal can be.  With that in mind, I am posting my summer professional development goals.

Directions
Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2009 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules
NOTE: You do NOT have to wait to be tagged to participate in this meme.
Pick 1-3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/07/09).
Post the above directions along with your 1-3 goals on your blog.
Title your post Professional Development Meme 2009 and link back/trackback to http://clifmims.com/blog/archives/2447.
Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme09.
Tag 5-8 others to participate in the meme.
Achieve your goals and “develop professionally.”
Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

My Goals

  • Reading – Finish all the readings for my summer study tour to China & at least 2 of the PD books I’ve started but haven’t had a chance to finish.
  • Technology – Further develop my knowledge of using Twiiter, Diigo, Google Docs, Ning and Wikis in the classroom, along with the “fall of the internet filters.” The purpose of this will be to better flesh out the PD sessions I will be running on these topics in the fall.
  • Curriculum – Complete the development of the 1950s Unit for Modern American Studies using the Content Enhancement model.  Gather and organize teaching resources in an easy to use format for those teaching MAS for the first time.

Related Posts:

What did you do over summer vacation? by Angela Cunningham

Professional Development Meme 2009 from Clif’s Notes On Educational Technology

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“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” -Mark Twain

Originally Posted January 10, 2009

As of this year, my current school has become a 1:1 or “High Access” school.  This means that every student was given a laptop and all kinds of technology is the fingertips of our students and staff.  It has been an interesting ride in my position of supporting teachers as they integrate new ideas into their classrooms.  I have seen some great implementation of creative ideas.  I strongly believe that technology is an important aspect of public education as long as we keep in mind that our content comes first and technology is a tool to teach that content.

However, a concern has begun cropping up among our staff.  We have all of these wonderful tools at our disposal, all you have to do is turn on the laptop.  But are we sacrificing kinesthetic/hands-on learning to the gods of technology?

Please understand that this concern in no way degrades the wonderful investment that has been made by my district.  I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to work in a high access environment.  I just want to make sure that we don’t abandon one of the greatest tools of learning.

One of my colleagues decided to do an informal experiment with his students.  He was curious about effect that computer notes vs. handwritten notes would have on test scores.  So he allowed students to take notes on their laptops for one test, and then required them to take handwritten notes for another test.  There was about a 20% increase in test scores for the handwritten notes.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to a keynote speech by Neuroscience education consultant Kenneth Wesson and participate in a round table discussion afterwords.  I had the chance to discuss this idea of computer vs. handwritten notes with him.  He gave us the following information:

Computer Typed NotesStudents are concerned mostly with accuracy.  This is the “wrong tool for the job.”

Handwritten NotesStudents write the information in a way that works for them.  You make it your own and there is more of a personal connection (which increases understanding and recall).  He went on to state the printing is more effective than cursive.

Mr. Wesson also talked about virtual surgery computer programs vs. hands-on learning in the medical world.  He said that the hands-on learning was a much more effective way to train surgeons.

I also asked him about reading new information on a screen vs. having a tangible book in your hand.  Some of my colleagues are concerned that in the future they may be denied the funds to purchase actual books in favor of all electronic resources.  Since textbooks are such an expensive affair, some in the district believe this is a major plus of acquiring the laptops.  Mr. Wesson discussed the idea, but stated that there is not yet enough research in this area.

This is a very worthwhile discussion to be having in my building.  While we are technology focused, there is a strong element of brain based learning.  This involves movement and integrating a hands-on approach.  We are in the early stages of our large-scale computer integration and it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.  All things in moderation?

Book Recommendations by Mr. Wesson:
The New Brain: How the Modern Age is Rewiring Your Mind
by Richard Restak

Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith

Possible Questions for Comment:

  • Is there such a thing as too much technology, or can we never have enough?
  • Do you have any experiences of technology vs. hands-on learning?
  • Is there a way to integrate technology & the kinesthetic?
  • What thoughts do you have on these ideas?

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“Not all who wander are lost.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

One of my favorite quotes, this embodies some of my philosophy as an educator.  I find myself continually searching for new ways (new, at least to me) to improve the experiences of our students.  I changed the word “wander” to “wonder” for this blog because there are all kinds of things I am continually wondering about.  Things such as classroom management, content topics, effective teaching techniques, the teenage psyche, and how to get students to bring back my ransomed hall pass!

I have been pondering how to share my ideas and experiences on education with my friends/colleagues and how to get their ideas and experiences in return.  Even though we are scattered all over the map, there is no reason in this age of technology why we can’t continue where we left off or go to places we haven’t yet been.  I often learn a great deal through writing and discourse.  This is the vehicle I’ve come up with to do just that and to broaden my horizons.

I invite you to comment on any of the ideas in this blog.  If you agree/disagree with me or other contributors, have questions to ask, or your own ideas/opinions to share, please add them.  I value your thoughts.  All I ask is that you do it “respectfully” (isn’t that a word some of us have discussed with our students a lot?).  Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

tolkien

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