Monday, August 4, 2014

Thoughts on Student Ownership

I follow a lot of smart and reflective educators on Twitter.  This past year, I have noticed several of them have discussed the idea of student ownership of learning.  A lot of people have written about personalizing learning for students to increase motivation.
Intellectually, I agree with a lot of what these educators have written on the topic. However, I have had trouble visualizing how I might do that with my own students. Until today.
Last week, several players from our high school volleyball team performed service projects around the school. One group wanted to "decorate" my classroom. The coaches talked to me and I said I was fine with it. To be honest, I took posters down a few years ago because I thought the custodians were going to paint the classrooms that summer and never got the posters hung back up, so my classroom has been quite the drab space for a while.
What has amazed me is that despite being "done" with the service project time they were asked to do by the volleyball coaches, these kids are still coming back to do their work, which has transformed my classroom into a cheerful, colorful classroom. Why have I not thought of doing this before with students? Why don't we as schools, teachers, administrators, custodians, and community  members let our students put their stamp on their classrooms on a regular basis?
I have spent several hours scouring Pinterest for ideas to update my classroom. I now think that I should turn this task over to my students on a regular basis. How much more excited would students be to attend school in a place where they have added their own mark? How much more pride with they take in their school? How much fewer behavior issues would schools have if kids feel like the space is a joyous one that they've had an opportunity to design and decorate?
The pride, the energy, the amount of time these kids have put in has amazed me. I have thanked them countless times because it has been so enjoyable for me to watch them take control and ownership of the space.
I am still working out how to give more ownership of the learning to my students, but I have learned this week that the students will own the walls of my classroom from now on.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reflections for #SummerLS

This summer I joined a Summer Learning Series coordinated by Todd Nesloney AKA @TechNinjaTodd on Twitter using the hashtag #SummerLS.  I have followed Todd for a while because he often tweets out advice about a variety of technology-related topics.

For several years, I have been increasingly interested in how a teacher might leverage technology to improve instruction.  I first started using Twitter thanks to Jimmy Fallon and his weekly hashtag questions.  I didn't use or understand Twitter, but was curious about what tweets didn't get shared by Jimmy each week.  I now follow 308 people, mostly educators, and have 240 followers.  I have sent out 1,639 tweets.  I really should be tweeting more, and am looking for ways to better utilize Twitter in my own classroom.

This blog post comes after more than a year away from blogging.  I am posting because of this week's challenge from Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp), a 7th grade teacher from Wisconsin who I also follow because she coordinates the Global Read Aloud.  Her challenge for the #SummerLS participants is to do some kind of reflection this week.  I am choosing to compose my reflections in my blog because one thing I have been thinking about this summer is that I need to share more of my thoughts with other teachers.  In addition, I think the blog will be a great reference for me to review my thinking and growth as a professional.  I have enjoyed re-reading the few blog posts I have written.

This summer, I have been reading about character and "grit" and its place in education and reflecting on how I want to incorporate technology for the 2014-15 school year in my classroom. I have finished the book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough.  I am currently reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  I have a tendency to read two books at a time and bounce back and forth between them. I plan to read Save our Science by Ainissa Ramirez, Fair Isn't Always Equal by Rick Wormeli, and There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith.  

The technology ideas have come to me mainly through Twitter and Feedly.  I have found some fabulous educators to follow through those two apps and glean an amazing amount of ideas from their blog posts.  One thing I have done this summer is start to organize those posts using Diigo.  I have several lists started and am taking all the posts I've saved in my Pocket account and am organizing them so I can share the lists with my colleagues.

In addition, I have solicited some advice via Twitter on what application might be most useful for a student e-portfolio.  Right now, I am considering using either a Google Site or an Evernote account. I am leaning toward a Google Site because we are a GAFE school and would like my students to understand how to use all the Google Tools at their disposal.

I have also decided to use the following applications this upcoming school year with my students as they create their e-portfolio:  Educreations, ThingLink, Storify and Twitter.  I plan to do some flipped lessons and am going to use Nearpod for those lessons. Finally, I plan to start using some game-based applications, starting with Kahoot.

I plan to write a blog post about each of these applications and how it is going during the school year using the various applications.