Monday, July 24, 2017

Earning Google Certification

The first time I heard about Google Certified Educators, I was intrigued. What could Google offer to teachers? Why would having a Google Certificate make any difference?

Becoming a Google Certified Educator means knowing how to effectively use the G Suite for Educators in the classroom. It means using the Google tools as actual tools and not gimmicks. It's really easy to say "Oh yes, I use technology to enhance education because I show youtube videos in class." or "I use technology because I have a class website."

Google Certified Educators take technology beyond a once in a while event and use it to help themselves and their students.

I was first introduced to the idea of becoming Google Certified last school year. The school where I was teaching was moving to Chromebooks for the 1:1 tech. I planned to get my certification over the summer and was very happy to find that I had to earn a "microcredential" as part of one of my graduate classes.

Last year I had taken my classroom as paperless as I could using Google Drive and Classroom. Some of my students did better with paper. It made my life as a teacher so much easier. Google Forms was wonderful for worksheets, exit tickets, and assessments. I was able to post videos for students who were absent, and give them copies of all assignments. The biggest problem was actually with students pressing the button to submit assignments! I thought missing assignments would disappear, but it was still difficult to get students to push the button.

Thanks to the experience I had using G Suites for Education, the actual process of Google Certification was a review of skills I already had. There are three modules and 13 units total. The training process is interactive with videos, scenarios, and mini-quizzes. If you feel confident in one area, you can skip the lesson and go straight to the quiz. However, I wouldn't recommend doing this because there's just so much extra information and little "hacks" to make life easier.

One Google site I didn't know about was Google Keep. It's now one of my favorites! It's basically a list keeper. I like lists. As soon as I finished the training on Google Keep, I made five lists of all my state standards. When I teach a standard, I can check it off the list. I'd like to be able to add a date and time, or multiple checks if I do it more than once. I'm not sure if that's possible. If it's not, I'll probably add the standard multiple times. Or maybe create a checklist for each nine weeks. These Keep lists are shareable, so it would be great for planning purposes within departments.

The test for certification takes about two hours. I test quickly in most instances. I don't usually need the full two hours. This exam really does need the full amount of time it says. I can't disclose what is on the test and how it is formatted, except that you need two hours and a webcam.

The big downside for me with this certification is that this next school year, I will not be at a school with 1:1 technology. Some of my new students don't have computers or internet at home, not because they can't afford it, but because there simply isn't the infrastructure where they live. As in, there's no internet service provider. The only tech I have in my classroom is my teacher laptop, a PC, and a ceiling mounted projector.

This is presenting a big challenge for me in how to integrate 21st century skills into a classroom without the latest gadgets. Right now, I plan on using Google Classroom for big projects like papers and presentations. I won't be able to use it for quizzes and daily work like I was before. I still plan on posting digital copies of worksheets and assignments in case  for when students lose work. Another idea is to provide students with a daily summary on Google Classroom of what we did in class. This way, students will have a way to double check they have all they need.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Teacher Coaching Cycle

My first year of teaching was a real challenge. Not only was I commuting 84 miles one way and changing time zones, I was teaching at a STEM school with 1:1 technology. All my students had iPads. It sounded great in theory, but for many of the students, the iPad was pretty much a really cool toy they got to play with at school. It was my job as a teacher to pull them away from youtube (why it wasn't blocked was beyond me) and sorting their playlists in order to focus on what we were actually supposed to be doing in class.

Our technology coach said there was no better usage monitor than 2-2. That is two eyes and two feet. I disagreed. We needed 2-2-filter! What was left out of our coaching was that 2-2 required set up in the form of strategic seating (certain seating arrangements made it a lot easier to monitor) and frequent bug checks (students were constantly trying to find ways to cheat the system).

The other big challenge I faced was that my comfort level with technology was completely different than several of the other teachers in the building. I was ready to go with using Google Classroom for formative assessments, going nearly completely paperless, podcasts when I was out of the classroom for the day so students didn't fall behind...you get the ideas. However, the training we were receiving was very much geared towards people who were not as comfortable with the tech.

I really wish our technology coach was able to provide us with more one on one coaching instead of the one-size coaching that was being done. 

Coaching Cycle

Right off the bat, I would have been able to get coaching specific to my needs. For example, how can I get my students to use the feedback I leave for them on assignments in order to improve their writing? There are some students who think writing an essay is a "one and done" sort of thing--I wrote something, now I'm done. I'd leave feedback and the students would turn in the exact same essay without any changes. Or, I'd have students actually include my handwritten notes and questions! 

Once I started using Google Docs, I thought it would all be sunshine and rainbows. Instead of actually fixing the errors, the students would mark my comments as resolved and not change anything. Despite many explanations, they thought all they had to do was read what I wanted changed OR that clicking the resolved button, meant some sort of magical auto-correct would take place.

I started to wonder if the problem was with how I was explaining things. Was I not clear enough? What was I doing wrong that my students weren't using their feedback?

Ideally, a coach would have come into my room and watched how I was using Docs and with my interaction with the students. I would have received some feedback like maybe transitioning a little more slowly to digital feedback. Have the students give feedback to each other first on paper and save the digital feedback for final drafts. 

When I asked other teachers what they were doing, they either weren't or their students didn't have the same issues because our student populations were on opposite ends of the spectrum.

So I was pretty much left to "self-coach" and reflect on what worked and what didn't and how I'd do it in the future. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

standards and professional learning

After reviewing the Alabama Quality Teaching Standards and the Standards for Professional Learning from Learning Forward, what are the most important aspects of designing professional learning activities that are meaningful to the teachers but also aligned to standards?

I've heard the horror stories of professional development: hours at boring meetings that have no point or are not at all applicable to your students or the worst, when it feels like a sales pitch for a new and improved  product where the only parts that are new and improved are the addition of the words "new and improved."

The there are the memes:

One of the first things that jump out about professional learning, is that teachers do not find them meaningful. Teachers loathe when students ask "Why do we have to learn this?" yet when it comes to training, teachers turn around and ask administrators the same thing! If the teacher doesn't find the training relevant, then the teacher, just like his or her student, tunes out.

This is where the standards come in, just like it does with our students. As adult learners, we are goal oriented. As teachers, our goal should be to help our students. We help our students by continuing to learn. Students change every year. Technology changes. It isn't realistic for teachers to think they can stop learning just because they've finished a degree or have a certain number of years in the classroom.

It is also important to recognize teaching doesn't take place in a vacuum. Teachers are part of large and small communities with a variety of experiences. One of the best training sessions I attended was with all teachers in my content area who taught grades 6, 7, and 8 (all grade 8 students attended a separate school from grades 6 and 7). The purpose was to show how the standards built upon each other and transitioned between grade levels. It allowed us to discuss why certain skills were critical as they were key to mastering later standards. We were also able to have a frank discussion about what skills we didn't prioritize and how that impacted future success on the standards. This professional development experience showed us our "collective responsibility," in addition to extending our support network.

This could have easily been a session where everyone pointed the finger at another grade level for not teaching, but instead it was used to show the teachers how we could better build upon each other. It also encouraged us to look at the 9th grade standards to make sure we knew what we had to prepare the students to do.

When teachers know and understand why we have to attend the meetings and what benefit those meetings are to ourselves and our students, we become invested. We give our students standards and goals to increase their investment  in their education. As teachers, we expect the same.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Androgogy vs Pedagogy

How will understanding the history of Andragogy, and how it differs from Pedagogy, help you in your practice?

Learning the difference between how and why adults learn compared to children is important. It really boils down to two key areas: motivation and responsibility.

First, let's look at motivation. Kids and adults are similarly motivated.

 There  are some students who are internally motivated who love learning for the sake of learning, other students are motivated by rewards and punishments, and others who simply are not motivated and invested in learning at all.

Adults, when they go back to school or take a class, are usually doing it because they are getting something out of it. It may be an increase in pay or an increase in self-esteem. Sometimes, they are taking a class simply because they are told to for their jobs.

Responsibility of learning is a huge difference. 

The most accepted pedagogy is that children do not hold primary responsibility for their learning. They lack prior knowledge and experience and must rely heavily on the teacher not only for what to learn, but how to learn. Students are not often given the chance to reflect on their learning and how they learning before moving on to the next skill. Students often wonder, "Why do we have to know this?" for all sorts of topics and if the student does not find the connection, they may not retain the information.

Adults, however, are expected to take responsibility for learning. They have many years of experience and instructors value those experiences. Typically, an adult in a learning setting is learning material that is relevant to their lives. The "Why do we have to know this" is tied to why they are taking the class. A teacher knows why he or she is attending professional development. An engineering student understands the value of taking calculus. This results in the learning making consistent meaningful connections to the information.

I do not understand the assumption that children are not expected to take responsibility for their learning and participate in reflections of what they have learned. A good teacher will take the experiences children have and tie it into what they are learning. Young students should have the opportunity to have responsibility for their own learning. This should increase student motivation.

When it comes to teaching adults, we also can't forget that sometimes adults have to take classes and do things that they don't want to do. And, typically the same type of motivations that work for unmotivated children, work for unmotivated adults. Someone once told me you could judge how interesting a PD would be by what was on the table: If there were plenty of treats, expect it to be extremely boring.

According to Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, there are six principles of adult learning:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

To be perfectly honest, you can substitute children for just about every one of those besides internal motivation and goal oriented, and even then, you will find those children who could be described in those terms.

Perhaps because I teach older children and have homeschooled in the past (and again this next school year!) that I expect students to be more self-directed. Students definitely want to know why, they want the steps to be clear and practical, and they definitely want to be respected. We can't discount how their life experiences and prior knowledge add to (and unfortunately, sometimes detract from) the classroom.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Teaching Adults vs Children

I spent several years teach adults before I went back to college to learn how to teach children.

My first steps into teaching adults were a complete disaster. I clearly remember being asked to teach an adult Sunday School class at church. I was 18 years old and teaching people who were far more knowledgeable about pretty much everything. The word intimidated doesn't even begin to describe what I was feeling. Our church is very organized and streamlined, and therefore there is a curriculum for teachers, and a handbook for students. My very first lesson, I stood up and read directly from the teacher manual. It was so awful. There was another teacher who was vibrant and creative. He engaged every single adult and everyone wanted to attend his classes. Our Bishop had to ask people to attend mine. I lasted three months.

I didn't teach adults again another 12 years.

I also didn't teach children either, except for the nursery class of 18 month to three year olds.

Around the time I was asked to teach adults at church again, I also transitioned from being a member of the non-profit La Leche League to being a leader. This meant I had to teach monthly meetings, answer phone calls at all hours, and to train other leaders. LLL also had leader manual with meeting topics, but it was far less specific than the manual for teaching at church. I had to learn how to reach mothers in a way that was meaningful and helpful to them. They were coming to the meetings because they needed something specific. They kept coming because there was a feeling of sisterhood. My lessons mattered because most of the women only came for one or two meetings. I had to maximize their learning and, most importantly build a relationship of trust. Women who needed support from LLL needed to feel comfortable talking to a complete stranger about breastfeeding and ask for help.

When I started teaching at church again. I was asked to attend a teacher class. My eyes were opened! A good lesson began with an object lesson, some comparison of a Gospel topic to an everyday object. In my education program, I learned this was called a hook. Each lesson started with the small idea and built up to the big ideas. Each week, the lessons built on each other. In the education world, we think of this as scaffolding.

As I went through my education classes, learning to be a"real" teacher, many of those same ideas and principles I learned through my church classes, were techniques used in teaching children.

Teaching children is not all that different from teaching adults. The teacher is still competing for attention with devices and all the other things going on in the students' heads. The teacher still needs to find a way to draw the students into the lesson. No one wants to sit in a lecture and listen to a person drone on and on.

I would often post links and lessons on Google Classroom for my students, but once they left my room, it was impossible to follow up and make sure they watched the extra lessons. The students promised they would watch and a quick survey the next class showed very few of them did.

The same thing happens for adults taking online classes. We wait until the last possible minute and if we have time, watch the extra lessons, but more often than not, we try to skate by doing the minimum. That's probably more of a confession than anything else. With five kids at home for the summer, and one leaving for college in six weeks, I have to force myself to do my homework. I have to force myself to do my housework, to be honest. There are so many other things I would rather be doing. I am an adult. I know better! But, when it comes down to it, teaching adults is not all that different than teaching students. And being an adult student, isn't all that different than when I was a young student--except the tech toys are so much better.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas ornament swap

Once again I participated in a Christmas ornament swap. I received so many cute ornaments. 

The plan this year was to have one tree full of handmade woodland ornaments. But, the whole Costco being out of trees meant we had to use my tree as the family tree. None of my beautiful woodland ornaments made it on the tree. Maybe next year!

Before I share the ornaments, I wanted to show poor Chester. I found him at Dirt Cheap for just $1. He needed a home and a little glue...

Soon enough he was good as new!

His birdie friend doesn't have s name yet.  Chester was more than happy to oversee the unpacking of his forest friends...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Home Tour

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house
Only mother was scurrying not quite quiet as a mouse
The stockings weren't hung by the chimney with care
And mother was glad St. Nick wasn't soon to be there

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of finals danced in their heads.
Father in his PJs all ready for his nap,
And mother silently cursing, "Now, where did I put that?"

When from out of the closet mother created such a clatter,
Father slid from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the living room, he groggily puttered
Tore open the door, rolled his eyes and muttered:

"What are you doing, up at this hour so late?
Is it really worth it to make the house look great?"
When what to his tired eyes should appear
but a great big mess and adhesives that won't adhere

With a jingle and jangle and a little thud
I just knew my Christmas tour was a total dud.
More rapid than eagles, this holiday came
And I fussed and fretted, and tried still the same.

I set out the snowmen, the penguins and bows
And really just hoped that everything goes
There are too many Santas, some sort of scary
And, no one knows what happened to Mary.

Several boxes are missing, including the lights
So our tree won't shine much during the night
Our electric bill will surely be lower
without the outdoor lights sucking the power!

But it's still Christmas and I'll be a good elf
Put up the decorations I have, in spite of myself
If you wink your eyes and turn your heads
Maybe my home won't be something to dread

So spring to your keyboards, and leave a nice word
Even if you think my decorating is absolutely absurd.
Enter the drawing, visit the other sites
Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!


So here's the deal...

Myself and 14 other bloggers, totally put off Christmas decorating and sharing. Today, we're bringing you the Procrastinators' Christmas Home Tour and a give away with a chance to win a $50 gift card to Online Fabric Store or Farmhouse Decor Shop!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit all the other bloggers participating!

I  had every intention of putting up the tree in early December, just like every year. However, this year, my husband suggested I not get a tree until closer to his birthday (Dec. 14). So, Saturday night, we headed to Costco to get a tree only to find them completely sold out! Not good! Costco was really the only affordable place to get a tall tree.

Instead, we had to break out the 7.5 ft tall pre-lit artificial tree and prop it up on a box to make it look taller.

Only to discover that the pre-lit part is only partially functioning and the box full of Christmas lights is completely missing!

Guess what is also missing?

My entire nativity set!

Solution? Just line up all the other weird nativity sets I have and just pretend it's a depiction of Jesus' early life and that Jesus, Mary and Joseph have already fled to Egypt! That's totally the story I'm going with when the kids ask...

I still have some points of JOY in my holiday decorating:

JOY is one of my recent finds at Dirt Cheap. I plan to keep it up year round to remind me that we're supposed to have JOY in our lives.

Even Edmund has a festive little nest for Christmas.

Let's make our way outside...

But first, a stop in the vestibule

Out the door..And on to the porch...Because everyone needs a mantle on their front porch