Monthly Archives: May 2011

I Am Change


In January 2010, I  attended EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Baltimore, MD.  One session in particular, I Am Change inspired me to want more change in my graduate level courses.  Being an ambassador for young adolescents and teaching exclusively at the middle school level since my teaching career began in 1993, I’ve always been all about change.  That’s what middle school teachers do.  We change, evolve and transform to better understand and meet the developmental needs of young adolescents.

I quickly started editing and deleting my syllabus.  I was inspired to have my students take more of a leadership role in their own learning.  On the first day of class, I presented my new idea and it was received with a lot of, “You want us to do what?”  The first few weeks were rocky.  One student commented, “I have to admit that the first day of class was terrifying for me. I am a type-A personality. I love deadlines, to-do lists, and due dates.  In my learning experience in college and high school, a syllabus was made to be followed and that is what happened. Not in this course. I have to admit that I did not really reference the syllabus after the first few weeks of class because I knew what needed to be done.”

With change a level of trust must be established.  I focus on the process not the final product and this can be very intimidating for the first time.  I ask my students to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable” because this is where true learning happens.  I encourage, applaud  and celebrate risk takers.  I ask my students to “own” their learning and drive the direction of the course and the assignments.  With some hesitation students will ask, “Can I do this for that assignment?”  And I always respond, “If it works for you, it works for me.”

I can’t imagine teaching any other way.  My question to you now is how do see yourself as an agent of change?  How do you model taking risks and embracing change?  What can you do to encourage your students to become change agents?  And how is this all connected with 21st century skills and learning?

Here’s my presentation from #tec11 session today, I Am Change.

 

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High School Skype and Twitter Project Request


#EdCampBOS and our collaborative Skype session with #EdCampDet got my wheels spinning. Anything is possible with Skype and Twitter. I’m planning to teach a First Year Seminar for the first time this fall. My seminar, Pleased to Tweet You: Are You a Socially Responsible Digital Citizen will allow freshmen to examine social media and digital citizenship. Here’s the course description:

Schools across the country promise to provide a safe environment for learning, but so many students are afraid and embarrassed to come to school.  In today’s globally diverse and digital world, a bully’s reach goes far beyond the playground.  As more teens use computers, cell phones and other electronic devices they will experience being harassed, threatened and humiliated publicly online at greater rates.  Cyberbullying is the biggest hazard our young people face today and will continue to face in the future as more teens consume and produce digital media.  An interactive multimedia approach to this course will provide students an opportunity to explore the problem and extent of cyberbullying through readings both on and offline.  Using a reflective lens, students will create an action plan to help others navigate the Internet as responsible digital citizens.

I’m looking for a high school teacher or several high school teachers to collaborate and participate in our Saint Joseph College First Year Seminar experience in the fall.  Any takers?


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Timing is Everything #EdCampBOS


Timing is everything in life. #EdCampBOS was last weekend.  Two days after the last week of classes and just before the week of finals and commencement.  Not the best timing for me professionally.  I had every reason to take a pass, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  Going to #EdCampBOS last weekend was exactly what I needed at the end of a long semester and academic year.

It was my first EdCamp experience and it was so rewarding.  Teacher educators committed to being agents of change, passionate about social media and 21st century learning and dedicated to being lifelong learners were willing, able and ready to share and learn together.  It was a day of reflection, renewal, growth and hope – the perfect way to end a semester.

I was thrilled to be part of the collaborative Skype session with #EdCampDet with Michael Kaechele @mikekaechele.  Stimulating conversation and fabulous ideas on cross-classroom collaboration were shared.  The highlight for me was when “The Epic Romeo and Juliet” Nicholas Provenzano @thenerdyteacher was part of our session.

A special “Woo Hoo” shout out to Greg Kulowiec @gregkulowiec for sharing his QR Codes session.  My mind was spinning with the endless possibilities.  We appreciate the challenge to figure out how to incorporate them into #EdCampCT on August 18th!

I’m so looking forward to being part of the very first #EdCampCT – what a perfect way to start my academic year!  Hope you’ll start your school year with us too!

 

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#sschat Reflection: Teaching What Matters Most


Last night I was so proud to call myself a social studies teacher!  The #sschat last night focused on how to cover real-time historical events in your classroom.  It made me miss teaching.  There is a special heartbeat about being in a school that is hard to replicate in higher education.  What last night’s chat made me miss most of all was teaching “Curran” events in my middle school classroom.

For the most part, I remained somewhat quiet during the #sschat since I’m not currently teaching middle school social studies.  I wish I had shared one of my all-time favorite books, Dateline Troy by Paul Fleischman.  I used this book with my middle schoolers to demonstrate the power of using “Curran” events.  The book chronicles the Trojan War and suggests that we are still fighting that very same war today, “Though their tale comes from the distant Bronze Age, it’s as current as this morning’s headlines.  The Trojan War is still being fought.  Simply open a newspaper.”

I loved using the newspaper as part of my curriculum.  I used to drive to Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts to pick up newspapers from different parts of the country and the world for my students to read, compare and examine.  As the chat progressed, I was struck by how much and how fast the world has changed since I first started teaching in 1993.  I wouldn’t have to drive to Harvard Square to pick up my newspapers anymore.

Social media has changed the landscape.  If I were in the classroom now, I’d want to use Newspaper Front Pages: Death of Osama bin Laden to examine headlines from different newspapers and we’d create classroom news articles using Scoop.it. I would use The Choices Program: History and Current Issues for the Class on a daily basis.  We’d use Twitter to evaluate perspective, as well as primary and secondary sources just like Ron Peck suggested last night during the #sschat:

We would also examine how quickly social media can alter history by retweeting a powerful, but totally inaccurate quote.  I’m guilty of retweeting this quote too!

 Out of Osama’s Death, a Fake Quotation is Born

I’d collaborate with my other #sschat teachers that I’ve met on Twitter, so our classrooms could learn from each other and model what it means to be a community of global learners.  Look at the thoughtful comments made by @virtual_teach third graders, Is it okay to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death?  I would have loved to collaborate with her classroom and students yesterday.  For now, I’ll have to wait until the Fall semester when I teach a graduate methods social studies course.

I’ll end with this last thought, what social studies teachers do everyday is magic.  It is the most important work to be done in a classroom.  We model what it means to treat others, how to live in a community (our own and the world at large), we face issues of intolerance, teach empathy through the use of perspective and we foster curiosity.  I’m so proud to be part of the #sschat – it gives me such hope for the future of education!

P.S. Here’s the start of some resources I found on Twitter and #sschat: 6 Q’s About the News, Teaching Ideas: the Death of Osama bid LadenThe Post-bin Laden World,  Twitter First With bin Laden News, How to Discuss bin Laden’s Death with Children9/11 Osama bin Laden Links by @ShawnMcCusker, Bin Laden Resources by @gregkulowiec and the #sschat archive from last night. Please add any other resources that you have found valuable.

 

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Around the Rotary: The Roundabout of Learning


As this academic year is coming to an end, I find myself deep in reflection. I launched the new course, Technology for Learners and was asked to teach Educational Psychology for the first time this year.  Teaching both courses has made me practice what I preach: get comfortable with the uncomfortable. All year, I’ve marveled at how my learning curve is constantly stuck in the curve position.  This morning, I woke up and realized that my learning has been more like a roundabout or a rotary.  What a fabulous analogy!  Thanks to Wikipedia for the image and accurate description.  It really captures my learning experiences this year!

I learned how to drive in Massachusetts and have always been proud of how I handle a roundabout.  In fact, I think its safe to say that I’m an expert, capable of fielding any and all questions on how to approach, yield, merge, navigate, maintain your right-of-way and exit a rotary.  I’ve even taught out-of-towners how to do it the Boston way, so this confirms my expert status, right?

The best part of learning is that it is not a destination; its a journey.  Learning is  like driving around a rotary.  Sometimes you enter this way, sometimes you enter another way.  Sometimes you miss your exit and have to drive around again.  Once you are in the rotary, you need to learn how to navigate and own your learning.  The best part of a roundabout is that it is constant; cars are coming and going all the time, just like the learning process.

It has been a transformative year of learning for me.  I immersed myself into the world of social media, developed an amazing PLN and launched The Dyslexic Professor.   I’m so glad that my learning curve is just like a rotary because its in constant motion and I’m modeling what it means to be a lifelong learner.  I can’t think of anything better than this!

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