Friday, May 1, 2015

How did #AprilBlogaDay impact my practice?

I've often heard that it takes 30 days to develop a habit. From my #AprilBlogaDay experience, that may not be completely true. But it was only by taking part in the challenge that I was able to figure that out, along with a few other key things.

Time is of the essence
When the challenge began, I was on Spring Break. This gave me the necessary time to get a blog finished each day. Once classes began again, I found that many of my blogs were completed and submitted after 11 pm. The daily deadline helped make it happen but I'm just not ready to commit to that going forward. Even though I got better at churning them out, it still takes quite a bit of time each day.

Practice, practice, practice
One of the biggest takeaways was that the daily writing helped me develop a process to writing each post. I learned to let go and press Publish. It's never going to be perfect so just let it be and move on. It has certainly made it easier for me to post something and so the hurdle each time has gotten much smaller.

Variety is the spice of life
Initially, I had figured that each post was going to be similar in length and style. That was my goal as I figured it was a good plan to try to follow. Now, the structure may be to try something different each week or on particular days. It may make for a disjointed blog but trying different things will make it more interesting for me.

Connections made
Participating in a project such as this with others made it much more educational and possible. Reading what others wrote and having them read some of what I wrote was a constant motivator. Feedback is very important early on in order to get things kickstarted. I've now connected with several others who have great things to say.

Habit of reflection
While the daily blog habit may not be a result of this challenge, the practice of reflection has come much more the forefront for me. This was an unexpected but extremely positive outcome. I do find myself reflecting more during the school day and I already seen it playing out in what I do in the classroom each day. Among many positives, this may be the most encouraging for me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The worst advice I've ever heard about technology in the classroom

The worst advice I've ever heard about technology in the classroom came out of my own mouth. It went something like "You should do/use/incorporate this because it is great and easy to do."

I don't remember what this was but I do remember the comment from one of my colleagues after I said it a couple of times during a professional development session. She stopped me at one point and asked if she could be perfectly honest with me.

Me: Of course.
Her: "Well, it is probably easy for you but it's not really easy for me."
Me: Yet
Her: "Maybe. But until then, it's even more frustrating that I don't get it when you keep reminding me how easy it should be."
Me: I guess I'll hide this big red "That was easy" button until a later session.

I've tried to avoid the word in any presentation or PD session since.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What I have learned from a year of daily assessments on a deivce

Overview
With this year's freshman class required to BYOD, one of the things that I decided to do was to have all of my students do the daily assessments on the devices. I chose to use Socrative because I had already successfully used it for a few quizzes but many review games for almost two years. I committed to try for the entire school year because I figured it would take some time to work everything out and to learn some of the ins and outs.

The process
Each quiz is anywhere from 5 to as many as 10 multiple choice questions. Students start with a blank sheet of paper for the first quiz and I always give an open-ended written question last. While writing that answer on their paper, I format and print results and take a quick peek. Students hand in a quiz with that hand-written answer and it gives me something to put a grade on to hand back the next day.

Creating quiz questions
Initially, it takes a little more time to create each quiz but definitely less time than grading 100+ quizzes daily. Because the answer is in front of them on a multiple choice question, the questions can be a little more specific and so I can expect a little more from their reading.
Expected bonus: I certainly became much better at creating questions specific to our conversations or to lead students to a surprise that may help them learn the material better.
Issue to resolve: I'd like to easily add previous day's questions into the set of questions for each day to give students more exposure to the foundational content. It's not easy to do without retyping it in Socrative.

During the quiz
I disabled immediate feedback because there were too many "OH!'s", "AH!'s", and "DARN!'s" otherwise. It became disruptive to the others. Instead, I go over the questions after the quiz or as part of class discussion.
Unexpected bonus: Students have good focus and concentration on their OWN screens. Each student is at a slightly different pace and only one question is on the screen at once. This lends itself to very little "screen looking." Each student can move at their own pace and I can see their progress and pace.
Issue to resolve: Is there something constructive that the students who finish quickly can do?

Recording results
After printing the results spreadsheet, I record the scores on the student's paper he handed in. I also read and comment on the written answer and make a note on the spreadsheet page for his written answer. Later, I can input the results from the spreadsheet into the LMS.
Expected bonus: There is much less student use of paper. On that one sheet, most students fit the written answer for 1-2 weeks of quizzes.

Future wishes and ideas
Daily exit tickets may be that students create a question (with answers) from that day's topic. Those questions can become part of the next day's review part of the quiz. At the same time, I get to see what type of understanding students have of the lesson through the questions they create.

Overall, it has been very successful. I now have a bank of quizzes to be modified instead of created entirely from scratch and I don't need to run off 100+ copies each day. When I make an update or addition, I add it directly to the quiz and can do it seconds before class is set to begin.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Winding down (or finally getting it?) after 27 posts in 27 days

The biggest fear was the lack of time time so I decided to try keep each post short and simple - one thought - in and out. But that is way more difficult than I had imagined.

Seth Godin's post today addressed this situation for me. Perfect timing.

So after 27 posts in 27 days, I'm trying to actually do it as planned this time. It shows I definitely needed the practice.

What is the purpose of a personal public reflection?

There were several reasons I decided to take on the AprilBlogaDay challenge. One of those reasons was my attempt to get over the thought that a blog was basically a written selfie. I kept asking myself - What is the purpose of a personal public reflection?

After discussing the practice in a chat over the weekend, it became clear that this process is more than just a method to flesh out and expand on an idea or thought that has been limited to a scribble on a scrap of paper. The "Publish" button is just a way to finalize that thought for that moment.

I guess I'm just used to seeing the reaction in the faces of the students in the classroom. On Facebook there is a "Thumbs up" button that at least gives an indication that someone's been there but I'm glad those aren't part of this process. Based on my own experience in reading and (not) commenting, the number of comments for most blog posts must be a very low percentage. By writing it out, it will stick with me a little longer and publishing it just gives it more possible places to bounce.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

If April showers bring May flowers, what do April bloggers bring?

The response is definitely not "No comment" and also more blogging.

Several of those who have been participating in the April blog a day challenge (#AprilBlogaDay) put together by Chris Crouch (@the_explicator) got together for a Twitter chat this morning. As I stated near the end of the hour, I don't know if I have been a part of a more productive chat. It was part reflection and part brainstorming, but then also led to a planned future activity that is often missing from professional development.

The group decided to continue blogging (in various degrees of frequency) in the month of May.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! (read in your best ginsu knife commercial voice)

Some have chosen to comment on one blog post a day and post a link to the blog. It should be a great way to share what you are reading to a wider audience and give some needed feedback to many education bloggers.

The hashtag in May becomes more universal - #edBlogaDay. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow from this amazing group of people.

To join the Google+ Community and/or sign up on this Google Form.

A formula for a great "working" environment

This post was written in response to two hashtags: #ILoveMySchoolBecause and #AprilBlogaDay

There are several things that come to mind that I truly appreciate about working at DeMatha Catholic High School. While these really just scratch the surface, they are some of the first things that come to mind for this quick reflection.  I had to cut it off somewhere because this prompt was "due" yesterday!

Incredible colleagues
My colleagues and administrators have been intelligent, risk-takers who are willing to share their experience and time. Most importantly, they are great people and its modeled for the students everyday. Our principal often encourages the importance of "play" in education and I see that in the attitudes of teachers and students throughout each day.

Freedom + Support
Since my first days at DeMatha I have been given the freedom to choose much of the content and approach that best works with my teaching style and my students. Along with that freedom has always been support and guidance to encourage me to further develop. 

Expectation of excellence
There has been an expectation of excellence in anything that we attempt to do, both in and outside the buildings, even before I started working at DeMatha. That culture of excellence was never specifically stated to me that I can remember, but it is evident in the achievements of the past and the attitude of the present.

More than remembering
A school slogan, "Remember... you are a gentleman and scholar" was created several years ago and place on posters throughout the school. It is a powerfully simple statement that makes the purpose of any endeavor clear. In many small ways each day we are continually reminded that we're not quite there yet and that's certainly expected. Working in a building with almost 1000 high school boys would make it seem like that model is impossible to live up to. But that doesn't stop everyone from trying. And some days, we come remarkably close.