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.