Friday, January 4, 2013

#EdTech Reflections from 2012

It's the beginning of a new year, a time for looking back and a time for crystal ball gazing. On twitter +Vicki Davis,  suggested: Write a 2012 year in review about what you've done, where you've been, and the joys of the year. Take time to remember. In honor of 2012, I reflected on on my top 12 highlights from the year. As I am continually trying for life/work balance, some of the highlights are related to my teaching practice, and some are purely personal. All 12 can be found on my life+teaching blog, but since five of them are related in some way to our iPad Academy adventures, I am sharing them here, too.

1. iPads in the classroom: In March, I applied to and was accepted into the iPad Action Research Academy  in our school district. We received our class set of iPads in April and my students have been engaged ever since. I started a blog to keep track of our experiences and have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of innovators as we have pioneered use of this technology in our district. As a group we have used a wiki and primarily Edmodo to communicate, problem solve and collaborate. It really has been a game changer for me, my students and my colleagues.

5. Since I have started teaching, I have been lucky to work with some amazing educators whose focus is special needs kids: Bill Theimann, Linda Bruton, Julie Paolini and a supportive staff and administration.  I had just assumed that their approach of compassion, inclusion and treating all students as learners was the norm.  When I left SUSD I found that was not the case. However, I was brilliantly lucky to be placed in a room next door to the new SDC teacher, Sheila Monger. Monger, an inclusion specialist, shares my views and passion for creating a seamless education environment where all students learning needs are met.  This school year, I am teaching a 4+5 combo and Monger is teaching 2+3+4+5. Having more of an overlap has opened the doors for more integration and inclusion.  Together, we are gradually breaking down barriers and opening doors for opportunity for teachers, administration and students look at learning a new way. 

8.  Education + Technology = #EdTech: When I decided to become a teacher, my vision was to use what I had learned "in the real world" to help me be a better teacher.  I have worked hard, and spent a lot of my own time and money, to find meaningful ways to bring technology into the classroom to provide my students with authentic learning experiences.  When I had to leave SUSD, I was afraid I'd have to start from zero to re-establish myself as a technology leader with my new district. At my age, (really at any age) starting from zero seems like a grand waste of time.  One of my favorite expressions is that I'd rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.  As a manager, I respected the initiative that showed. As a teacher I appreciate the perceived independence, even though I know it can sometimes frustrate my principals.  So, I just did what I do and kept my principal informed.  Through programs like CreaTV and the iPad Academy, I have been able to flex my tech muscles while providing our students with unique learning opportunities. I have also been in a position to help develop other teachers as they learn how to use technology to become more efficient and effective educators. In January, +sheila monger  and I were honored with a Good Apple Award by our school board and recognized for our contribution in the area of educational technology.  I am very proud of the work we have done to help teachers and students use technology in meaningful ways.

10.  In October of this year I applied to and was accepted into another academy at our district. Cambrian and others use the academy model as a choice method for professional development (see page 32).  This time it is the Digital Media Academy.  I saw this as a great opportunity to merge my work with CreaTV and classroom learning using digital media.  Our students have started out by producing short PSAs  addressing personal concerns such as playground safety, littering, and bullying.  We have been able to use student created content on our monthly television show on CreaTV, Comcast channel 28,  Around Bagby.  Our students are becoming better planners, writers, problem solvers, communicators and collaborators.

12. Assessment. As I started this year end review with iPads, I'm ending with them.  While initially I used the iPads for student engagement and learning, I also used student work on the iPads for informal assessment.  However, I wanted to learn more (and still do) about ways I can use the devices to effectively assess student learning.  In August, with the help of +Jill Florant  at Edmodo, I started using Edmodo not only to communicate with my parents and students but also to assess their learning. I started using assessments and quizzes. Parents are able to see their child's progress and it really has improved the home-school connection.  In addition to Edmodo, I also started using Class Dojo for behavior management.  The kids love their avatars and work hard for positive behavior reports.  This fall I used adopt-a-classroom to generate crowd-funding for SpellingCity and our collaborative weather project.  SpellingCity helps administer spelling practice activities and tests, grades the tests and provides useful reports to me and the parents.  In 2013 I plan to further investigate and utilize methods for assessing student learning and engagement on iPads.

Happy New Year!

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