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, Edublogger, WordPress, Classrom2.0 (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.
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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