Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Staff Development???

Today during the two 30-minute lunch periods at Arapahoe something new happened. It is not really new...The Karl Fisch has been doing this for some time now.

There was a short staff development at lunch! The item of discussion was Moodle quizzes and how to make one. The topic could take a long time to cover and then throw in the fact that there are questions just about Moodle in general and now, we are really running out of time. Throw in the fact that the person leading the staff development is a long-winded science teacher (read "me") and now we are really, really, really running out of time for the conversation.

We have been using Moodle in the science department at Arapahoe this entire school year. Some of us are using it in place of a class webpage since it is a very secure environment for students. A few of us are using the full features of the site. Others are using it just to give quizzes and some other activies. The remainder of the science department, well...I am not sure that they even know what Moodle is. (But then again, you cannot water rocks...)

Here is the fun part about the lunch meetings:
The first lunch was mostly Math teachers asking about the use of Moodle in the classroom and how it can change what is happening from "bell to bell". The second lunch meeting was myself, Karl, two instructional coaches and an administrator. Who would have thought that not a single teacher who was eating lunch would not be there? I thought for sure someone would want to learn about using Moodle. Don't get me wrong. I think that it is amazing that an administrator and the two people who are responsible for helping teacher were the only ones there. After all, they should know what the possibilities are with this software. I just thought that teachers might want to learn about this but maybe they just have too much going on right now or they do not see the power in the use of this technology. Perhaps, in some ways, teachers do not want to change what they are currently doing in the classroom. I hope that this is true that they value what they are doing so greatly that they do not want to change. My fear is that they are already spread pretty thin and will be asked to do even more in the coming years. With that idea looming in the future, asking them to "learning" something new might not happen.

I do think that there are some great things going on in the classes at schools across the country. Arapahoe is a special environment where we are allowed to try new things if we think it will help the students. Learning 2.0 was a great place to have some conversation about using Moodle in the classroom and I hope that at least one person was challenged today or over the weekend to try it.

By the way, Jesse Craig, Jeff Smith and I started another blog. This blog is for our whole department to share ideas. Currently, we are posting some videos to help other teachers learn how technology can be used in the classroom. We started with setting up a blog. Then we covered how to post a video to the blog. Next, we discussed how to use Feedburner.com to gather information about a podcast and how to get that information into iTunes. Then, we discussed how to use iTunes to gather course content like lectures and conversations. Now, we are posting some help on using Moodle that we thought teachers would like. Check it out and let us know what you think.

So, I guess, that as teachers we are now going to start being teachers of teachers also. But, then again...teaching is why we got into this to begin with.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to Grade

As I am sitting at my table at home grading...okay, right now just staring at...a stack of papers I am left wondering and reflecting:

How much grading is too much?

I teach four classes of chemistry, 3 days a week. Two of these classes are Advanced Placement. I have student assistants at school but they are not allowed to grade papers. There are about 30 students in each class. That means there are approximately 120 lab papers each week, homework assignments to check, quizzes, tests and other types of documents.

I know that grading is part of the job (and this is what I really like to do - teach) and there is some that needs to be done but when is enough, enough?

This question seems to come up a lot among teachers but I am not sure we have an answer. What are other people's thoughts on grading?

I have come up with some ideas:
  1. Assign less - but what is cut out?
  2. Do not grade every lab assignment
  3. Grade only parts of each document and not the entire thing
  4. Grade only formal assessments - not supported usually in schools
I should also say that I am really thinking about this since class size will go up in the coming school years. Budget reductions and staffing changes will require us to have larger classes/teach more sections. I am fine working hard but I am tired of the people outside of education thinking that teaching is easy. It is not. If they really want to know, they should try it. Until then, they should keep the criticism to what they really know about (if there is anything on that list).

So if there is anyone reading this and you have ideas about changing grading, I would really want to know.

By the way, I just read this blog post which made me think about the industrial model of education. Overtime without compensation???

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thoughts from Conversations

So after attending and presenting at Learning 2.0 today, I was left wondering a couple of things.

1) Who is in my networks?
2) Why are the teachers who are innovators being released?

1) My networks - Family, friends, colleagues, fellow believers, cyclists, teachers, model builders, students and numerous others.

Do you think that networks will have an important roll in education? I know that they can be used to further our understanding and conversations about what we value but is there time in the day to really "connect" with others?

I would like to think that in my networks I am working on a few things:
*Am I listening when others are thinking outloud? I am really working on this one.
*Am I reflecting on my network and the learning involved?
*Am I constantly observing what others are learning?
*Am I modeling the behavior that I would like to see in others?
*Am I the change I want to see in the world?
*Can I move in the direction of "productive eavesdropping"? (Thanks Bud Hunt for this term.)
*Are we watering rocks or are we being surrounded by others in our networks who are doing the "good work".

2) Why are we keeping teachers who do not want to change the world for students?

It seems to me, in a time when school districts are making cuts, we need to look at old policies and make sure that they are really effective. (Just as a note...I really have no idea about how to fix the system but I do know we need to talk about it.) I mean, if there are a few teachers who are close to retirement and no longer want to do anything to change the face of education, why do schools have to keep them? If this was the private sector, would people who do the minimum be retained in times of cuts? There are a few younger teacher who are being released who have decided that they will do all they can to change education for the students. This just does not seem right to me. By releasing some of the older teachers, who have made the decision to continue to do the minimum, and keeping the younger teacher who want to make changes for sutdents, district could be saving a little money now. Where are the early retirement offers? This idea of tenure (which I like on paper and I like the security offered by it) needs some serious conversation.

Anyway, I am interested to read person's thoughts on this stuff and hopefully, I can figure out how to blog effectively.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Semester Two

Well, the first one is gone and here we go again. (Semesters I mean.) The end of the first semester was a time where I was wondering what I was doing yet again...I looked at the other teachers and saw them working really hard and I was wondering if what I was attempting to do was really that important.

There was even a moment when I said to another teacher, "I am over this podcast stuff." I just felt like I was still doing a lot of work and that the students (some of them) did not care. Then, it happened.

What happened? You might ask.

I thought about the process of learning. Anything that is difficult is usually given up on. At least that is how I see it. There are times when we work really hard and never see the results (everyday in the classroom, I think) and there are other days when we do not work as hard and wonder why someone is paying us.

Then, a student said "thank you". My day got better when my daughter, a 4 year old, said "thank you" for the time I spent on the floor playing and not working. It had a big impact. Over the next few days, I came back around. I wonder where the semester went and how fast this one will go. I am trying to look at each day as being full of possibilities and not one full of burdens. That is helping. I am enjoying going to work but I also am spending time doing other things. This is good.

What about around the building that is part of Arapahoe High School...
I am doing a few things.
  1. The instructions for creating a podcast (vodcast) are almost done. However, I need some help. I need to know if there are any specific questions that people have that I can help with. Please leave a comment or send me an email.
  2. I am adding first year chemistry to the list of podcasts. More on this later.
  3. I am looking for ways to adapt the lecture format of science classes. (See this article from M.I.T.)
  4. I received an award of a SmartBoard and clickers, among other items, for the classroom and they are coming later in the semester. What changes will this bring???
  5. The chemistry labs that I teach are going paperless! I will talk about this next time.
  6. There is a faculty dance at an assembly coming up. (Don't ask.)
  7. Football is gearing back up.
  8. I am trying to use Moodle for classroom stuff. If you have used this or are using it please let me and others know how. I am trying to wrap my mind around this technology and it seems to have lots of possibilities. Any help would be appreciated.

I would think that is enough for now. Like I mentioned, the documents for creating and uploading a podcast are coming soon. (I would like to think by next month.) I will be posting here and on my class page when they are completed.

It is good to be back!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Where did November go??

As I am sitting at home on what seems to be December 2nd, I am left wondering where the month of November went?

Let us see...

  1. There were four birthdays in my family.
  2. A major holiday.
  3. Some set-backs in the classroom (more later).
  4. Some great conversation.
  5. A football banquet.
  6. All the other stuff that comes with working in a school with high academic standards and students who continue to "blow me away" with what they are capable of.

So, here we are in December and I thought I would let you know what I am working on. By the second week of January, I hope to have some information on this blog and my other blog about making and publishing podcasts. I will have some documents that show what I am using to complete this task and some of the things that I have learned with the help of one of my students (I like to think of him as my technology advisor. However, my goto technology person will always be Karl Fisch.) So look back at the beginning of the year to find information on this topic. As always, feel free to email me about the concept and implementation of the podcasts.

In the spring, I hope to move to "Phase 2" of the classroom podcasts. This is where the students begin to produce their own class content. Perhaps it is just explaining material and problems to other students or maybe it is on the sharing of course content that is gathered by the students. I am not sure at this point and if there is anyone reading this that has tried it please let me know what has worked.

I have got the Wii whiteboard up and running and there seems to be no current issues with the technology. That means I can now write on my regular screen in the classroom with our needed actual whiteboards. The fun is just starting with this and there is one student who really enjoys working on this and has helped me a ton. We even built a pen where the l.e.d. in the pen is aimed out the back and that seems to give a better image for the Wii-mote to locate.

My AP Chemistry students produced "Chemistry Christmas Carols" and I am going to attempt to get these onto a blog (either this one or the one that hosts my podcasts) in the next couple of days.

So, here is to another month where my professional growth continues to be pushed. I cannot wait to see what discussions the students bring and how they grow in their learning.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How about them podcasts...

There has been some discussion recently about if podcasts should replace lecture as a method of delivering course content to students (I guess that old Hatak is ahead of the curve in this concept...). Recently, teachers outside of AHS have asked for feedback on the podcasts that we have been using. Here is your chance to tell it to the world about what you think. Make sure that you are telling it the way you want other teachers to hear it.

You might include what you don't like, do like, would change, would leave the same, why you have used them, why you have not used them, issues with access, easy of access and anything else that you would like to say here.

Over the weekend, please return to this post and continue the conversation. You might see people from outside of AHS commenting or at least know they are reading what you have to say.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Impact of Podcasting

So, it has been a little while since I posted on this blog. Here is a current update on what I am trying to do...

  1. I am putting together a document that instructs teachers on how to build podcasts and post them online.
  2. I have presented twice to teachers at my school (Arapahoe) on the podcasts and the technology behind them.
  3. I have helped another teacher at AHS start a podcast. (More on this below)
  4. I am looking into having students generate the podcasting material.
  5. I am going to create a chemistry podcast with the next unit for first year chemistry students.
  6. I am looking for "professional" scientists who would be willing to do interviews for my podcasts.

After a lot of discussion with another teacher at AHS, Mr. Jeff Smith, in the science class, we reached some conclusion on why we podcast. As a matter of fact, the greatest argument was for "just in time" learning. The ability of students to access information when they need it and to be able to supplement their learning is what I find most powerful. Enter Jeff. He teaches AP physics, among other classes, and saw a use for the podcasting approach. After talking to him about the idea and and tools, he started posting podcasts on physics. They are listed in iTunes and on a blog. Please check them out and let him know what you think. I know, as a teacher trying something so new, it is important to receive feedback.

Number 6 is the most interesting to me right now and I would like to start an "Ask a Scientist" blog. If there are any individuals reading this that would like to be a part of the first interview please let me know.

Well, I guess it is back to football, parenting, and teaching. What a wild ride this has been. Anything but neat and tidy.