Well this will be my last blog for 2007, a lot has happened since I “discovered” Web2.0. First, I personally believe that I have become a much better teacher.  I no longer attempting to teach students that have had difficulty in the public school system, the same basic manner that they had difficulty with before coming to me. My students are all high school special education students, with behavioral issues, who have a history of failure and are significantly behind their same age peers socially and academically.

I previously attempted to teach using a schedule (syllabus) and the introduce, read, do worksheets, maybe discuss and evaluate (testing, writing, etc.). In October I realized that this method of teaching was not working for my students or me. I have always tried to integrate videos, computers, new methods, etc., into my classroom but this year it just wasn’t working. While I was discussing my frustrations with the technology coordinator he made a statement that “ROCKED MY WORLD” and made me look at the “man in the mirror”.

He asked me if I was trying to teach the individual student at their speed or if I was attempting to do too much and what was I doing differently from every other teacher they had had?” Now this simple question took me back several steps! In that moment, I didn’t really have a good answer for him, but it did cause me to stop and question myself as a teacher “a great deal” because I realized immediately that I was not really much different, teaching my students in ways that they already had failed at. After this conversation I spent a couple of sleepless nights, thinking about myself as a teacher and where I should go in the future to prepare my students for their future, which I hadn’t been doing.

After this of reflection on my teaching style, I came to the conclusion that my teaching style was not much different from the teaching styles of most teachers that my students had little success with in the past and that I was getting results more from my personal relationships with the students and the behavioral system in place at our school that I was from my actual teaching. This was a difficult realization and quite a blow to my ego, because I had always prided myself on being a very good teacher and here I had realized that perhaps I was not nearly as good as I had always thought I was. I realized that I had to change how I was going to teach these kids, if I was going to help prepare them for life after and outside school.

Well I got back together with my tech coordinator and discussed things, he mentioned things like blogs (I had heard of but hadn’t used), wikis (I had usedWikipedia, but didn’t really know what they were), collaboration and a bunch of other things. I also did a LOT of research on the web about using technology in the classroom and read so many different ideas/websites with great ideas and came across something called Web2.0. Web2.0 seemed to resonatesomething within me and I plunged in with both feet and quickly became overwhelmed, discouraged, overwhelmed and frustrated. The amount of information and applications available today – is as my students would say “Crazy”. I tried to research everything and try everything out and found out that there just isn’t enough time in the day for that, so I had to choose a few applications that my students could actually use.

I sat down with the tech coordinator again (he must have gotten really tired of my countless questions, comments, emails with all this new information and links) (my wife believes that I am more than a little OCD and that I tend to go overboard). So we decided to concentrate on just a few things during the second quarter (my experimentation time): Email (Gaggle.net), Word Processing (Word and Google.docs), Inspiration8, and blogging. Well it has gone better than I thought it would. I didn’t realize that two of my students (18 and 15 years old) had never sent an Email before, and they really like this idea (as one said “This is so cool”) that we take for granted. So they have all learned the basics of using Email, forwarding and attaching files, how to use Inspiration8 to create mind maps as a pre-writing strategy and then convert it into an outline that can be used in M/S Word to start a draft document.

Then we went on to sharing this draft document with others using Google.docs to share and provide comments and suggestions to improve the document. Some of the students did not like sharing their work with someone other than the teacher, especially another student, it took them outside of their comfort zone and caused them to work a little harder on their documents (the embarrassment factor). These students were not used to the revise/edit cycle in the first place and then adding in the collaboration piece, put one into vapor lock, but even that one is starting to see the use of collaborating with others. The blogging piece just didn’t get started at all, we had difficulty with the permissions in our application and unfortunately it just didn’t work out, so that is something that I want to work on next year.

I joined many sites the best of which was Classroom2.0, the community there is very supportive, but for some reason, I just stopped participating (I think it was overload, because I am starting to go back and look things over). I am still trying to do tooooooooo much way to fast, but at least it isn’t the students I am pushing, it is just myself. Looking at things more closely, I have to be careful to stop and smell the roses more often and not be a slave to my RSS feeds or clicking on every link in a blog and having about 30 tabs open and then attempting to read each one.

The technology coordinator extolled the virtues of using Wikis, but I just didn’t like them and I have tried to put a few together, but when I publicized them at my school, the other teachers didn’t know what to do with them and basically ignored them or attempted to make comments/suggestions, but they didn’t really work. But my Special Education Director is very supportive and keeps asking me to come over to give her some training on how to use them more, so that is on my list of things to do next year.

My personal blogging has been very disjointed, I haven’t found a site that I really like, I have tried Blogger, EdubloggerWordPressClassrom2.0 (Ning), Pageflakes and a couple others that I can’t remember. Also, I have to figure out how to integrate personal vs professional blogging, I still haven’t got this sorted out in my mind completely yet, but I have only been at this a couple of months. So I have come down to either using Blogger or WordPress, just got to figure out which one fits my personal style. Another issue I have to get used is trusting the web with my identity, I am kind of old school in this regard, but I read a blog the other (I can’t remember which one), but it basically stated about the lack of privacy on the web “get over it”. So to that blogger “THANK YOU” you basically created another paradigm shift in my perspective on the web.

Boy I look back at what I have written and how much I have changed my perspective on teaching — I really want to teach skills that are going to be used by my students outside of school. I strongly believe in what I have been reading from the Web2.0 educators and the need for students to be able analyze, collaborate and think for themselves. I enjoy the comments and the information in many of the blogs (Cool Cat Teacher, The Stingy Scholar, Read/Write/Web) to mention just a few, a multitude of websites and videos like “What if”, “Have You Been Paying Attention”, “The Machine is Using Us”, “Education Today and Tomorrow” and of course “Shift Happens – 2.0”, these have all had a significant impact on my growth in the past 3 months.

I owe another teacher a very sincere public apology…I commented on one teacher’s blog (I am terrible at remembering names) after she had been “venting” about a special education student, in my comment back to her, I read too much into her comments and when I read her response I found that she had done what she should and my comments were without merit. I owe her a public apology which I am putting in here. The reason I didn’t do it on her blog is that I needed to digest and reflect upon her comments and then when I re-booted my computer, I lost the bookmark to her site. So here is the public apology that I owe my fellow teacher.

Plans for next year: Learning to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, how to imbed videos etc into my blog (just can’t seem to get the hang of it) and to keep an open mind on new technologies as they become available.

Sorry for the long blog, but I needed to get a handle on things that I have learned and accomplished since October. I hope that you have a better understanding of how far I have come in a short time.

Thank you

Finally, if you have not seen it watch – Taylor Mali’s video “On What Teachers Make

I too want to make a *%&$#@! difference. (The old sailor coming out in me :))


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December 21, 2007

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com) 10/25/10

Week Ending 12/21/07

Ah – school vacation is now only hours away, we have made it through the toughest week of the school year. Everyone is excited or really down about the forthcoming Christmas vacation and this is reflected in many of the behaviors that are seen in students before the vacation starts. But for the most part the students were excellent this week and we got a lot more accomplished this year than I have in previous years.

Now I have to get started on planning for next year, I am thinking about doing either a persuasive paper on why they shouldn’t have homework or usingcomputer games to have them write about tactics or strategies and why thestrategy employed worked or didn’t work and forecasting what will happen next. For one class I would use a hunting game to meet the student’s interest in that class and a role playing game for the other class. I guess I will figure it out over break and put my choice into a Unit Plan.

Well I guess I can wish everyone happy holidays and a well deserved rest.

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REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com) 10/25/10

Week ending 12/14/07
This has been an interesting week. The students have been tough to keep focused on school work, they are getting excited about Christmas Vacation coming up.
My second period class negotiated with me on their next writing prompt and we decided that they could choose what their writing prompt would be. I thought that this was GREAT! It shows that they are willing to discuss the assignments with me and not just follow along blindly. I gave this choice to my seventh period class and they choose to keep the topic because they thought it was an easy topic to write about.
I attended Moodle training Thursday – It is exactly what we have been looking for! It is a one stop shopping for student learning. It is a fantastic tool, but students have to be able to access thecomputers outside of school. As more and more teachers at school begin to utilize technology (computers) in the classroom it is becoming imperative for all cottages to have internet access.
I guess I have to get back into my Special Education paperwork mode “sigh” I am getting so that I enjoy teaching the new technology much more than simply doing Special Education coordination and paperwork.
Oh Well back to reality. :)

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December 5, 2007

REPOSTED FROM MY THOUGHTS (hshawjr@blogspot.com/haroldshawjr.com) 10/25/10

How I see the Fundamental English Class – So far
Hi – I want to discuss my thoughts on my Fundamental English class to this point in the year. “Interesting” is the first thing I would say. We have gone fromrote learning out of the “book” with a heavy emphasis on read, do vocab worksheets and then test, to learning to integrate technology into the class. This has not been without frustrations (programs not doing what we expect, or “this is cool” from the students, to me finding this great new program and then try it out without giving enough attention to the “how” to use it.
But I have dedicated the 2nd quarter to learning how to integrate technology into the class and believe that we are making progress on it. There are so many things I want us to do, but we have to create a base of knowledge to move on to other uses of technology. I strongly believe that I need to move even more into the technology in order to help prepare my students for the “Flat world”.
I couldn’t have done this without Mr. Suttie’s help, he has been a fantastic resource and has guided me through my frustrations and helped me on how to integrate this “stuff” :).

Now I plan to focus on using the following programs for the rest of the quarter, Gaggle.net for email, Microsoft Word and Google Docs for word processing/collaboration, Quizlet for online quiz/study, Plato (if I can ever get my classes setup), EdHelper for paper based worksheets/tests, Blogs (I still have to figure out which blog I want to use, so I am going to try this one out and see how it works) and either Wikispaces or ZohoWiki as my Wiki space.

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