Encouraging Teachers to Create Content

 All teachers have seen Blooms Taxonomy – even the revised one. We understand higher order thinking and are encouraged to get students to higher levels. One thing that has been encouraged in the past years as a means to this goal is to get students creating. They create blogs, podcasts, glogs, movies, quizzes, games, anything to get students to demonstrate their knowledge in a unique way that will stick with them. This is great! But are we being hypocritical if we, the teachers, are not creating content as well? 

I have taught for 9 years without a teacher book. I have never used a pre made test (benefit of being an elective teacher). I have created things for my classroom for years and I am 10000% positive every teacher ever has done the same thing. It is amazing to me to share ideas with other teachers in my building. They are so creative! It is inspiring! So why not inspire others outside your building? 

Or think of it this way: When is the last time you googled something? When is the last time you used a worksheet or resource someone else made? The internet is a great thing. We can get so much information and resources easily. If we get so much from others, doesn’t it make sense to share a little too? 

Just think about the best lesson you created this year. The best worksheet. A great bulletin board idea. Now share it! Really….it’s pretty easy. There are so many platforms for teachers to share their resources. I bet it is easier than you think. Here are some ideas that don’t involve making a webpage. 

1. Teachers Pay Teachers
This site is wonderful! It is a great resource but it is also easy to upload your lesson, poster, image, or idea. You can even make money for it, if you want to. 

2. Lesson Paths (formerly MentorMob)
Create lessons that are paths. These are great to use in class to help students learn a specific topic. When you create a path you can allow them to be seen by other teachers. A very easy way to create something for class and allow it to be used by others as well. 

3. Live Binders
Not only is this a great resource so you have all your material in one place, but you can also connect, share, and collaborate with other teachers. Again, a win win for you and others. 

4. Twitter
Yep…twitter. Even if you do not share a lesson plan or worksheet, odds are you have read an article you thought was interesting or visited a site that would be a great resource. So tweet it out! If you found it interesting, more than likely someone else would like it as well!

5. Quizlet
I love Quizlet. This site is the trifecta! Students can create quizzes, you can create quizzes, and they can all be shared! You can use it as a assessment, student activity, and way to further teaching a specific topic. 

This is a VERY short list of ways teachers can quickly share what they have already made. Don’t just be a consumer of resources, create!!!


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My ideas about Professional Development

A thought occurred to me yesterday while driving home from the Alabama Educational Technology Conference (that had nothing to do with the conference, which was great!): We stress individualized education for students; meeting them where they are; using any method possible to teach them the content. So why can’t professional development for teachers at least attempt to be that way?

Most technology professional development goes like this:
Sit in a room and listen to a speaker. You may also go to a website or have some discussion, but after an hour or two that is all. You have been introduced to the topic, but that is really it.

If we understand the theory of multiple intelligence and principles of higher order thinking, it would stand to reason that listening/watching would not help anyone really comprehend the topic.

So how do we fix it? My first suggestion is time.  As a “still in the classroom” teacher, the last thing I really want to do it give up my planning period or be pulled away from my students to learn something new. Yeah, I said it. Or worse, stay for three hours after school. Yeah, I said that too. The summer is the best time honestly. I fell more relaxed, more open to learning, and less stressed about what my lesson plan will be tomorrow, or the parent I need to call, or the papers I need to grade. The summer also allows time to think and process how the tech tool can be used and, more importantly, time to play with the technology.

Next, workshops should be offered on various levels. At the AETC conference there were two workshops on Edmodo, but after reading the description I decided not to go. They both seemed “introductory” and I have been using Edmodo for two years. I really would like the more advanced features explained. There is nothing more frustrating than spending time in a workshop and walking away having learned nothing new.

Teachers should not feel overwhelmed by trying to learn many different things at once. I have a co-worker that will actually shut down if she feels overwhelmed. At the AETC conference I made it my goal to learn about Google Apps. That’s all. I only went to those workshops and I wasn’t crazy by the end. I heard enough and was able to brainstorm with other teachers so I will use what was learned. Schools should decided and focus on one or two new tech things to implement each year (this should be decided and communicated in April or May). If everyone is focused you can have better PD opportunities and it will allow the teachers to help each other.

Last, teachers should take things away from the experience. It needs to be more than “I watched someone use ______ and it was neat” because that is mostly what happens. Why not encourage teachers to think of a lesson, or bring a lesson plan, and actually work the tool into the lesson right then???? They would be far more likely to remember it and use it. There has to be APPLICATION!!!! If someone can’t see how it benefits them in the classroom (or their students) they are likely to think it is neat and never think about it again.

There have been two really great situations I have experienced. One was in a “Make and take” workshop on ActivInspire advanced tools. We were told to bring a “labeling” activity we would use in class. It was turned into a container activity with the software and we all had something to use in class. Bam! Application! Second, our school system will have a representative from a particular tech come and sit in the library. Teachers are encouraged to come on their planning period and ask questions. It is usually a tech tool most of us are using, but it allows direct instruction on something that we need help with.

I don’t think there is a 100% fail proof answer, but there has to be a better way than what 85% of PD opportunities offer now. We can all work towards more relevant PD!

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What are we teaching???

This blog is dedicated to a conversation that was started at the ACCESS teacher day at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference last week. Speaker Jeff Utecht asked a simple question: Because of technology kids today do not know how to do _________. We had several minutes to discuss answers. These are a few we came up with:

  1. Reading a map
  2. Telling time with an analog clock
  3. Using a phone book

These are the three that were most discussed. He then simply asked are these things still important? **Insert great debate here**

My husband and I were talking about it later and the whole discussion made me think of J. Abner Peddiwell’s The Saber-Tooth Curriculum. Everything in their tribe was fine until the world they lived in changed. Their education had to evolve with it or they would die. But they did not even though new methods were developed. Their society suffered because they refused to acknowledge the value of teaching new methods. 

No, I don’t think our society will be doomed if we continue to teach analog clocks. But it does start a serious question of why we teach certain things. In the business education curriculum we (really they…I was still in high school!) used to teach shorthand and keyboarding – all of which were removed from the curriculum before I started teaching in 2005. 

Our students have been using computers since they were very young so what are we teaching them? What if we focus on refining their skills and directing them for their future? Making sure they can properly search, send emails with attachments, learn a new application on their own, take something they know (like Word) and use it is a new way. Coming up with creative projects can be hard so lets share some ideas. Really look at your curriculum and find relevant ways to convey it. We are teaching the future…preparing them for jobs of the future that don’t even exist yet. We can do it!

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Pick and Choose

In the last week I have read two books. This is a huge achievement for me. It is bad to say but I think I have read a total of five books in the last seven years. I am not a “reader” but for some reason I have read more in the last six months than I ever have. It is great! It dawned on me that maybe I didn’t like reading because I was always being told what to read. For the first time I have the ability and time to pick and it is great and sparking my interest and love for reading. This got me thinking: how many kids are turned off because of the types of assignments we are giving?

No, I am not suggesting they have the free reign to never do worksheets, vocabulary, or anything else standard. These are critical to the whole learning experience. But it is great to experiment with letting students choose what types of projects they would like to create for cumulative assessments.

Here are some ideas:

– Role play the topic using blabberize (great, easy and fun!)

– Have partners do a radio interview as a podcast (pod-o-matic is a good tool)

– Use pictures to tell a story or display a step-by-step process (photostory is a great free download from Microsoft)

– Create timelines in Excel

– Make virtual posters using Glogster

– Make a class wiki website with each group doing a different section of a unit.

I will put links and better descriptions to these sites on the resources page. Some students do not like to be in front of a group, others love it! If you open the door of creativity just a little bit you will be amazed and what students excel at and what they have learned.

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TWIRL with the best of them!

If you haven’t heard it by now, TWIRL is the next great thing! Really it is a basic concept that amazing teachers understand. Content is better understood and processed if the student has an opportunity to TWIRL: Talk, Write, Investigate, Read, and Listen. In business education we are so used to books and computers that it seems strange to have students TWIRL with the computers!

This is not has hard (or time consuming as some might think). The students already read and listen and even write. The question becomes how much talking and investigating can they do? A lot!!!

So here is my best example: Absolute vs. Relative cell values in Excel.

I have been stuck in Excel for 6 weeks so that is where my brain is! Relative cell value is something they know, even if they don’t understand what it is (it is relative to the direction you move the fill handle). I give everyone the same document where all things must be multiplied by the same amount. Like they are planning a party and they have to multiply the cost of each item by the number of people coming. By themselves, they look at the spreadsheet and WRITE the formula they think will work. Then they ask the person sitting next to them what they have (TALK and LISTEN). When they both agree I tell them to put the formula in and see what happens. It will work – but then have them use the fill handle to copy the formula down – and listen to the reaction! Have them work with the same partner to INVESTIGATE why it didn’t work. They should be able to figure it out in a few minutes. Then have them write what went wrong on the paper. Now you can show them how to fix it and have them READ about absolute values. If they see what the error was, they will be more likely to understand how to fix it later!

You can also do easy things with formats (letters, reports, memos). Have correct and incorrectly formatted documents around the room. Tell students to get in groups of about 3. They are to go to each document and INVESTIGATE what is wrong with the document. In their group they will TALK about it and then have each member WRITE what is incorrect.  Always emphasize the importance of the group. Each person is responsible for everyone’s success. My students enjoy this and buy into the team mentality.

Remember to get them moving and talking! Almost anything can be turned into a TWIRLing good time!

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