Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thoughts on Lesson Planning in a 1:1 Classroom

It's been a busy week. I intended to write a few blog posts about setting up my classroom, the first five days plan, a summer recap, etc. But my learning got in the way.

Last Monday and Tuesday were my PD days. Our district has gone 1:1 this year, and every student from kindergarten through 12th grade has access to a learning device. Kindergarten through sixth grade all have an ipad that they leave in the classroom. Seventh grade through twelfth grade have MacBook Airs. It's a massive undertaking. We are the first district in the state of Iowa to be 1: K-12.

During those two days we learned imovie, GarageBand, Safari tricks, screen captures, and put together projects. My brain hurt each day when I went home. I was more tired than I thought possible. But boy, did the ideas start coming!

Even though I have always had access to technology, knowing that each of my students has that laptop at their disposal truly changes the way I am thinking about my lessons as I design them.  And flipping my writing class, well, it certainly makes that easier.

I've started my website for Creative Writing if you want to take a look. It's in the early stages and I will add content as we work through the units. 

But as I have worked on each day's lessons, I have to think, "Will technology make this lesson better? Will it increase my students understanding of  the material? Am I just throwing in a tech component for no reason?" I don't want to use the tech for tech's sake. I want it to really enhance the learning in my classroom. My mantra has become, "Tech is the delivery tool."

But here are some things we will be doing:

English 9 students are setting up blogs this week and will be blogging and sharing with several districts in western Iowa to start off the school year. I had freshmen blogging during second semester last year and I have to say, I saw their writing improve. I would post a topic on Sundays and they had a week to write the post and publish it. I'll probably continue that schedule this year.

Students will also love the fact that their 3 inch thick textbook is online and they won't have to carry it around! But I will love that we'll be able to use the online components more this year since computer access won't be a problem. There are some great tutorials, videos and ideas online that I can't wait to use.

Creative Writing classes will set up digital portfolios this year (no more clumsy notebooks! Yea!). I was going to have them all use weebly.com for this, but ran across a blog post promoting choice of platform. I've decided to go with that. I give students choice in everything else, why not the platform for their portfolio?

Students will also share documents with me via Google Docs. I liked this last year because we could chat about their work as they were working, even from home. I'm going to add "Voice Comments" this year (a Google Chrome extension). I'm hoping that hearing me talk about their draft will make more sense as they revise and edit.

And of course, I'm flipping this class, so students will work more at their own pace. They'll have time to go back and rewatch videos explaining a genre. They'll be able to look at examples anytime they want. They'll have resources at their fingertips when they need a little help.

Speech and Drama will have their own tech moments, but probably not as much as the other two classes.  Speech students have always done radio broadcasts and TV commercials. These will remain part of our curriculum.  I'm thinking about having them read aloud children's books so we can share with the elementary. I know I'll have them record themselves practicing a speech so they can hear how they sound (and see how they look when we video record). I think hearing themselves before they present will help a lot of them get out of the "slacker boy" voice so common with high schoolers

Drama students will definitely record their performances. We may make a few videos also as we go through the semester. I'll have to keep thinking with this class, but I know there are lots of ways to integrate the tech!

The first few days of school have been amazing. I also have an Apple TV in my room, so I can project my computer screen right up onto the smart board during class. If a student has something to share, I give up control and the student can connect and share their screen. It's a little like watching an episode of Hawaii 5-0!  Kids have been great--not much off task behavior. They like that they always have their device with them. It's easy to keep track of assignments sinceI use Remind101 and Schoology.com
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year progresses.

Stay tuned. I'm sure I'll write about it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Teacher Desk

In the past couple of weeks, I've seen a few tweets, talked to a few teachers, read a few blogs posts about people getting rid of their


Their principals were amazed. 
Their friends were flabbergasted. 
Their PLN applauded.

I got rid of my teacher desk years ago when I taught seventh grade. It made me feel powerful (for awhile). It made me feel superior (for even a shorter while). It didn't make a difference in my room. It didn't change the way I interacted with students. It didn't change how I arranged the rest of the room.

My desk is my space. It's my place to sit and work, or sit and rejuvenate, or just plain sit when there aren't students in my room. And sometimes, even when there are students in my room.

I get it. I understand the liberating feeling of getting rid of your desk and basking in the glory of a teacher deskless room. It puts you up in front of your students. It doesn't give you a place to hide. But I'll bet most of those teachers still have a place where they land during down time. And they have a place to put their STUFF, because we all need that.

Here's what really happens when you get rid of your desk.

You mix it up with your kids.  

Right there. In the middle of them. You interact.

That's what happens when you go deskless. 

It makes you think. 

There is no desk to sit between you and your kids. So you go out to them. And they come to you. 

And you talk together.
And you work together.
And you play together.

So, go ahead and get rid of your desk. And if, like me, you bring it back into your world, don't feel guilty. Even if it's in the FRONT of the room. It doesn't make you a bad teacher. Not if you have learned what its like to go deskless.

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