Time is flying. I remember when Dean first talked with me about connectivism while showing me around various places in Second Life. I think he needs more pictures.
I am trying something I have done before but fell away from doing for some reason. Basically, I teach in a 1 to 1 gifted and talented middle school program and during the first quarter while at North Middle School, I had the kids face the Smart Board/overhead while they sat behind the keyboard as pictured below.
Although I am not usually in front of my classroom, when I was lecturing or presenting, I would be in front of the class, looking at the backs of the kids computer screens, and very often, kids would be doing something other than what I wanted them to be doing. Perhaps playing crazy birds, watching Davey goes to dentist, or translating Arabic into Japanese via Google translate. Probably more often than I would like to admit. So this quarter, I changed it to look more like the image shown below. The computers or in a circle around our work space and facing away from the center of our area of the library.
Now I have the kids backs to me and the Smart Board. I can see that each and every one of them is on the page I want them to be on and not playing crazy birds, watching Davey goes to dentist, or translating Arabic into Japanese via Google translate. When I am providing direct instruction, I force the kids to actually turn around and look at me. That way, I can tell who is listening and who is not. Something I hate doing is repeating instructions because someone was googling what the weather is like in Bhaktapur, Nepal. With my new classroom setup, it seems I have had to repeat instructions less often. I have had my room like this in the past, but somehow I went back to the old way. I hope I remember the new way from now on. It seems to have really improved my instruction in a very simple way.
On a personal note, I took the first picture above on Halloween of this year. The kid in the banana suit actually belongs to me. I think he was the one who was either checking the weather in Bhaktapur or translating Arabic into Japanese.
Forty three years ago, there were these two beautiful people who were going through a very difficult time in their lives. Mary and Gerald were 16 and 18 years old and made what they called was a mistake. They were pregnant and deciding whether or not to keep their future child or give her up for adoption. Being devout Catholics meant for them that abortion was not an option. I have talked with them some about this and the decision to give up their child did not come easily. I think a lot of love and unselfishness went into the decision they made and that is why I believe so much good came from their decision. The beautiful person they gave up for adoption at that time, was to eventually become my wife, the person in the middle at the top of my blog. Had they not made the choice they did, I have no idea what my life would be like today. I do not think I would be a teacher, nor would I have an educational blog. In fact, in all honesty, I do not believe I would be alive, had I not met the beautiful woman in the lion dress 22 years ago. The two boys at the top of the screen on either side of my wife would not exist and I have no doubt that my life would be absolutely 100% different if not for the decision those two people made 43 years ago. I also believe the Children’s Museum of Montana would not be touching as many lives as it does, in fact, it might have already folded. I know I would never have known so many North Dakotans if it wasn’t for that decision. I hope I can thank them someday, somehow, and in some way for the decision they made.
I remember hearing a story a wise teacher use to tell. It was about how a butterfly flapping its wings in the Indian Ocean could put events into action that would eventually cause a massive hurricane in the Pacific ocean. I think Mary and Gerald’s story is an excellent example of what that wise teacher meant when he told the story of the butterfly flapping its wings. I cannot even imagine the impacts tiny things I say or do with my students or other people in my life might have for very large numbers of people I will never ever meet. I am going to make more of an effort to make those tiny things have a positive impact.
I tried something new this week on Thursday. I knew the kids had to get all the definitions to our Animal Farm vocabulary down one way or another and I have been espousing my belief in PBL principles for a couple of years now. So here is what I did. I pulled the first two kids who came into class aside and told them they were going to be the leaders, the bosses, for class today. Most kids responded in a pretty positive way. I gave them the task of creating a wikipage that had each of the 40 vocabulary words, their top two definitions, and an image that represented the vocabulary word. I told them they had a few minutes to plan while I explained what was going on to the other 10 or so students I have each period of the day in my gifted pullout classroom. I feel a little bad for the first two class leaders, because I had no clues to give them to make things go a little easier, and maybe I shouldn’t have given later classes clues that I did…but it can be difficult for me, and probably other teachers as well to watch their students struggle. I told them that whichever class created the best page would receive an automatic 100% on the first Animal Farm quiz. Here are the results.
Some of my classes finished, others did not. I know these pages will improve over the next couple of days as well because I know my students.
I set down very simple guidelines including the leaders are in charge and you need to be working on the task the entire time you are in class. Also, all questions were to be directed to the class bosses. Gifted kids are interesting in that many of them really feel as though they must be given explicit instructions of exactly what and how they are supposed to do everything…God forbid they should make a mistake. It is something I work on them with, and hopefully help them improve upon. Because as I tell them, I believe that their are no such things as mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow. My classroom was a little like real life on that Thursday. Some of the leaders struggled as others really excelled. My hope is that the kids learned some valuable lessons about working together to achieve a goal…and I think they did. I plan doing more activities like this in the future. It was a real Quadrant D type activity, I think. Do you agree?
Zunal is a sweet application. I paid twenty bucks for three years worth. web quests are an excellent way to differentiate in the regular classroom and also to help gifted students achieve objectives more quickly than it might take in an ordinary classroom setting. I used Zunal to deliver a 7th grade webquest and an 8th grade webquest to my students over the last week and a half. The web quests were easy to tweak and update as we moved through them and Zunal has a huge bank of webquests designed by other teachers that you can use, edit, and remix to meet your own classroom’s needs.
On a personal note, I was reading someone’s blog the other day and they said they don’t blog if they don’t have something they feel is worthwhile saying. I think I have felt that way before, but I think I am going to approach blogging a little differently his school year. I started blogging because it made me reflect about what was happening in my classroom. I plan to force myself to blog even if I feel at times that I have nothing to share. Forcing myself to reflect once a week or so can only help me improve my ability as a teacher.
Via Scoop.it – Flipping my Classroom
I learned a new program last night in this morning called Scoopit. It is a content curator application. I used Scoopit to find and start my own content curation page. I am still a little bit confused about what content curation is I believe it is a way to manage the huge amounts of content that are flying at us everyday.
Any how I used Scoopit to post this article to my wordress blog as I am able to share my Scoops with a variety of other types of Social media. This article is a terrific explanation about what a flipped classroom is and how a teacher might begin flipping their own classroom in small ways.
Click here to see the article
I had my 79th birthday yesterday. My wife and oldest son were out of town so I thought it might be a bit of a boring birthday, but it ended up being a pretty good day. Whenever I was near my iphone, ipad, or computer, I received emails, facebook updates, and text messages from people who I am mostly fond of, wishing me a happy birthday, and wondering how I was doing. People who I know for a variety of different reasons who have touched my life at some time in the history of my life actually knew it was my birthday. Even my brother, Mike, who I hadn’t talked to in a long time, sent me a message. I ended up calling him and we had a terrific talk. I connected to a guy I went to basic training with nineteen years ago, who was the biggest thing I remember about that time in my life. We became close friends during that short time and somehow lost touch. It was so cool to see his facebook and what he was up to. It was kind of nice to know they and others were thinking about me on what was my favorite day of the year when I was younger.
Two years ago, because people were just figuring out facebook, or the birthday feature wasn’t as pushy as it is now, no one would have even known it was my birthday, which was fine with me and I could celebrate my birthday alone and in peace. I have always been a bit of an isolator, I just have never been very good at connecting to people, so I thought. I think it is the small bit of Aspergerishness I believe I possess that made (makes) connecting to others so difficult for me. I think social media has helped changed that for me, is helping change that for me. Before I went to bed, I went through my list of birthday wishes, and responded to each, stopping and reminiscing about how they had touched my life or how I had touched theirs. It made me feel good inside.
Social media to me, is more than just facebook. It is Jokaydiagrid, WoW, Minecraft, and Second life. It is Twitter, Gtalk, and Skype. It is my blog, Twitter, and Plurk. (Anal retentive person, I said twitter twice on purpose). It is my ipad, my computers, and my iphone. And yes, it is also Facebook. All these things have helped me be a better connector to people. These things all allow me to share with others who I am in special and different ways, which is something I have always struggled with. It has also allowed others to share with me, who they are in special and different ways. To me, social media is all about connectivism. I know that there can be some negative aspects to social media, but I believe that Social media has made me a better person by allowing me to overcome my fear and inability to connect to others.
On a personal note, seeing some of my old friends facebook pages, made me think about how I use to spend time floating down the Missouri river on inner tubes and small rafts. So that is what my youngest son and I spent a part of the afternoon of my birthday doing, swimming and floating in the Mighty Missouri, right where I use to when I was his age. We finished the day off with a delicious Howard’s Pizza.