My ISTE Certification Intentions

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ISTE Certification: The Beginning of a Journey

Earlier this year an opportunity arose for me to take a course and attempt to become an ISTE Certified Educator. The decision to make the attempt and become certified was not an easy one. Considerations that I needed to address included impact on family, cost, time to complete the certification, timing of the course, school district approval to get out for the training, and other smaller considerations.

It took some time and a good bit of self reflection to clarify details, organize resources, discuss the available opportunity, and eventually make the final decision to take the leap and attempt to become certified. I will not go into the specifics of working through all of these considerations in this post, I will just say that they were resolved in a positive fashion.

The process consisted of two days of face to face training, with nine more weeks of online coursework, then we have approximately six months to create an ePortfolio of evidence to be evaluated to achieve our certification. This ePortfolio will be discussed later.

As of yesterday, November 8, 2019, I completed the two day face to face training. It was intense, but well paced, with plenty of opportunity to reflect on how all of the information fits into my classroom.

I am currently in a cohort with sixteen other educators, many of whom I already know through PAECT. This familiarity helped me settle into the course and remove some of the jitters that arise every time I take a new course in my professional development journey. The educators that I did not previously know are welcome additions to my PLN and I look forward to working with them.

There was one major consideration that I have not mentioned until now and it is the elephant lingering in my subconscious…what if I fail to achieve my goal?

Even after I worked through all of the other considerations and was in a position to take the course, this thought hovered just below the surface in my mind. I believe I am a good teacher and already implement many of the ISTE Standards in my classroom, but having a total stranger judge my efforts was an entirely different level of evaluation. The concept of one evaluation to assess my entire effort is a bit overwhelming. That being said, I have no choice but to work within those stated parameters.

Individuals are to submit an ePortfolio of artifacts to show how we meet the standards, our evaluators will not know us, nor will they be able to infer any other information about us. Our portfolios will exist in isolation with only our submitted artifacts as evidence. There is no opportunity to clarify, rebut, or add to the ePortfolio once it is submitted. Talk about an uncomfortable finality…

I had talked with other educators who had started the course earlier this year to gain some insight into the process and their thoughts on everything. Though the sample size is limited, just a handful of educators, all were in agreement of the rigor and intensity of the ePortfolio creation. My stress level remained a bit elevated.

After talking with many members of my cohort, it seems a number of us have the same anxiety/concern about the ePortfolio. This fact of not being the only one with anxiety over the ePortfolio helped ease some of my anxiety. Weird, I know, but that is how my mind often works…beating to its own irrational, illogically logical drummer.

Anxiety aside, I am in this marathon learning experience as a full participant. Hopefully my blogging stays somewhat constant as I journal about my experience through the ISTE Certification process.

Spontaneous Review

This post was originally written many moons ago, but somehow got stuck in the iPad and I never noticed it was not published.  Well, better late than never…

My Period Four US History and Government II students have a test on Friday, it is based upon their presentations to the class on the 1950’s and vocabulary from the Civil Rights Unit. Actually all four of my US II classes have a test on Friday.

We created a Padlet from questions the student generated based upon their presentations. Student projects were posted on the class wiki and all of this information was wrapped up nicely and neatly in Edmodo for student access. Students were encouraged to use class time to collaborate and see if they could use their notes to answer the review questions. I used this method to study in college, I dislike studying in isolation.

As students worked together, I floated about to see if there were any questions they were having trouble with and if they were staying on task. We had mixed results, most students were on task and few had questions they could not answer. There were some students who were off task, redirected when I came by, and then went off task once I left. That happens, I did the same at their age.

Today, a couple of students started playing Hangman on the Interactive WhiteBoard in the front of the room. A number of other students jumped in and seemed to be enjoying themselves. I made a suggestion, which seemed to catch them a bit off guard. I did not tell them to get away from the board and study, I suggested that instead of playing Hangman with random words, why don’t they use the information from the class and use the game as a review.

They seemed to enjoy the effort, the majority of the class worked together and played in a large group. They assisted each other with the terms being asked and what some words meant as they were guessed. I had a few students who are not as social in class continue to study on their own. Overall, it seemed like a productive class. Students worked on their reviews, seemed to enjoy themselves, and it broke up the monotony of conducting the usual reviews. Sometimes going off the beaten path can be a good thing.

PETE & C Reflection 2019

This year’s PETE & C was very rejuvenating and a great learning experience.  I picked up a solid mix of new tools and new pedagogy. Many of the tools I was exposed to I have heard of or seen before, but I picked up new ideas on their usefulness.  This is always enlightening, it also precludes the need to learn and/or pay for new tools and apps. I believe these experiences out and about, immersed in these conferences improves my overall concept of education.  

My previous thoughts on some “Old School” practices, such as handwriting, which I am biased against due to my messy handwriting, and a few other ideas were challenged.  I was forced to look at those notions and adjust accordingly. I see where some concepts, such as reading cursive is necessary for looking over primary documents and still a basic skill set that is necessary, albeit not often used.  

I continue to push for student creation of content and challenge the students to think outside of the box, but I need to break projects and lessons down into smaller, more manageable or basic parts.  This allows for students who may not be comfortable with these concepts to hopefully have a higher rate of success. (Author’s Note: since returning from the conference, I have experienced my theory in a real world learning situation.  That will be a separate blog post.)

I am very interested in Mindfulness and creating a more effective learning environment in my traditional classroom and online class setting.  The changes have been instituted on my part immediately, although in small pieces. I find that my students adapt better to incremental changes rather than one major paradigm shift.  This is especially true with my Honors US II class.

As stated earlier, I am working incorporating these strategies and tools into my classes by modelling tasks repeatedly, and creating more and more video tutorials.  My students have also stepped up and have been mentoring each other more, especially on the current project utilizing my class Padcaster.

As more specific ideas and tools are rolled out, I will add to the story at MrSal.edublogs org.

I am also breaking assignments into smaller assignments to try and monitor and reward students more often.  I will follow up on the results via my blog.

 

Student Realizations…

We had a “pop” quiz in my regular US History and Government II classes today, there are four sections for that course.  I usually change the quizzes in some fashion, either rearrange answer choices, vary the questions, change essay topics, there is USUALLY some difference between the classes.  Today was no different, I once again shifted questions between classes.

A student from one of my earlier classes came into a later class to collect homework for a friend who was absent.  From across the room I hear the comment, “You lied about that.”  Taken aback, I looked around the room to see what precipitated the comments and to whom they were directed. The comment came across again, “You lied about that.”  The student from the earlier class responded promptly, “No, I didn’t.”

Part of the situation was was now clear, I knew who had issues, but did not know what the issues were or why they existed. I stepped in verbally with a comment.  “It was ‘Axis’.” came from across the room.  “No, it was Allies.” replied the student standing next to me.

The picture snapped into focus and I relaxed and let the students “argue” for the next minute or so, with my sudden smile almost turning into laughter.  The quiz questions had been shared, either in person or through social media, and the difference had thrown students off.  This was the point of contention between the students.

I asked a few questions of the class and was amazed to find out that the students have been taking quizzes, tests, and answering open-note writing prompts since early September and had no idea that all of those exercises have been tweaked and adjusted between class periods.  I explained how the items are changed and saw many students with incredulous looks upon their faces.  Many seemed truly surprised that I would do such a thing.

I explained that way back in the dark ages of the 1970’s and 1980’s, my friends and I also exchanged information about tests, quizzes, and other random assignments, however we did not have social media to spread the word.  I also explained that switching up items on assignments is not new, I am fairly certain my teachers did it back in the dark ages, as did many teachers before them.  It was an interesting scene to watch and even more interesting fact to learn about my students.

 

Spontaneous Review

My Period 4 US History and Government has a test on Friday, it is based upon their presentations to the class and vocabulary on Civil Rights. Actually all four of my US II classes have a test this Friday.

A couple of students were in front of my room when I came in from hall duty. They were attempting to write on the Interactive WhiteBoard, (IWB),but were having difficulty. Other students attempted to explain what to do, but there was still some difficulty and disbelief in what to do on the part of the students at the IWB. I confirmed and re-explained the student directions on how to write on the board.

I was curious as to their intent, it just happened to be a game of Hangman on the IWB.  They started off and I just watched as the students became excited to play the game.  I made one suggestion after the second game; why not incorporate words from the class review into the game.  They seemed a bit surprised that I did not shut their game down.

They converted the game of Hangman into an animated class review.  Students continued to collaborate during the games, assisting with guessing letters and explaining what some of the words were.  Students used presentation topics, important people and terms for the game.

A few students did not play, but reviewed on their own.   That was fine, they have that freedom of choice to work in the way they are most comfortable with.

Overall the period flew by, most students engaged on the task They needed to focus on.  It was nice to be reminded that we can go off the beaten path and still reach our goal.

Initial History Vlog

This was originally created as a script for my History Class Vlog. I plan to use the Vlog as a resource for my classes. I will link to the Vlog later.

Welcome to the 1960’s.

We will be trying something new for this unit, information will be presented several different ways, you get to choose how you process it. More details will be forthcoming in the days ahead.

As was stated at the beginning, welcome to the 1960’s.

The decade Starts as a continuation of the 1950’s

We know there was the 1950’s we remember nostalgically and then there was the 1950’s for those not so fortunate.

We start with Camelot in DC and end with violence and protests throughout the US.

For those who loved the nostalgia, their country did not look the same. For those who wanted change so much hope was lost in the struggle.

We had three presidents, a slew of assassinations, a Cold War, a conflict, a War on Poverty, the splintering of music, including an English Invasion, along with many misc topics we will mention, not here, but in the course.

Hold on to your hats kiddies, the 1960’s were a chaotic time for many.

Student Choice

Lately, I have been researching student choice, differentiated learning, and hybrid learning. At the most basic levels they allow for students to claim some ownership over their learning by giving them a say in class tasks and assessments.

I have been expanding this concept in my classes, slowly but surely. My current goal is to build consistency into my classroom pedagogy, this will provide students with a comfort level necessary to adjust to the changes.

For this past assessment in my non-honors classes, we were prepping for an essay test, open notes, but essay. My students had posted some self-reflective answers in Edmodo and on paper, I was trying to gauge their comfort with the topic, “The Cold War” and the specifics cd that went with the general heading.

At first I received responses of: “I have all of my notes, I understand my notes, and I have no questions about the upcoming test.” Some students responded with, “How many questions on the test,” but all responses were fairly bland.

Students were given class time to form study groups and review and discuss their notes. I floated among the groups and pulled informal feedback by listening to their comments both on and off topic.

After reading their second reflections, I decided that it would not be fair to shift questions from period to period. Topics that were strengths for some students were weaknesses for others in the same class.; I wanted to avoid any appearance of favoritism or targeting students.

An option popped into my mind, make some questions mandatory and the rest offer students a choice to pull from. So the set up was as such: Fifteen total questions, two mandatory questions, all students had to answer, then a series of choices. There were seven ten point questions, from which students needed to answer two. Followed by four six point questions, students needed to answer one of these. And finally, two four point questions, one of which needed to be answered.

Students did not need to answer in order, they could break up their answers to give themselves a bit of a respite while working. Obviously, (channeling my inner Mike Tomlin here), the more points for the answer, the more details were needed.

One of the first comments I heard from my students, and actually ones who usually offer honest feedback even if it is critical of what I do was, “I really like this option.” They seemed to truly appreciate the ability to show what they understood from a menu of sorts. Through class discussions and reading their reflections I had an understanding of what most of them were comfortable with, so I was not worried about students only knowing one or two answers. I am certain there were some students who fit into this category, but the majority had an idea about the smorgasbord of topics, just not necessarily a strong sense of confidence in their knowledge.

This post is under construction from my iPhone.

Josh Gibson Reflection

Jackie WeaverCreative Commons License Thomas via Compfight

I created a sample project to model an assignment for my Honors classes this past week.  The topic for my project was Josh Gibson; the assignment was to research a person or event for Black History Month and then post the research on a web page.  Students are to follow up their project with a reflective blog post on what they learned from the project, what they liked about the project, and anything they would change about the project.  Here is my sample reflection…

I researched Josh Gibson, one of the best power hitters in the history of baseball, why do many people not know of him…he played in the Negro Leagues.  He has been called “The Black Babe Ruth” others have gone as far as as calling Babe Ruth, The White Josh Gibson,” that is how good he was.  He was finally voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, the second of the Negro League Players to make it there.

I learned many things during this project, some were about Josh Gibson.  I admit I knew of him before the project, I am 51 years old, a history teacher, and love to focus on the Mon Valley, a place that is still dear to me.  I did come across an interesting fact about Josh Gibson and several other Pittsburgh Crawford players; I am not sure of the veracity of the story, but it was found on several sites that attest to varying degrees of truthfulness to the events.  They played one season in the Dominican Republic for Ciudad Trujillo, the team of Dominican Dictator Raphael Trujillo.  Players were followed by gunmen the entire season, including while in stadiums, with gunmen lining the field during play.  You can find my sample project by clicking here.

I also learned some new skills and tools, some out of necessity.  My preferred platform, Wikispaces, is closing, our district’s Google domain is a walled and locked garden, and time is the ultimate scarcity, so I had to adjust quickly and bounce ideas off of my PLN on which platform I should host my students’ projects.   By the way, PLN refers to Personal Learning Network or Professional Learning Network, your choice.  I ended up going with Google Sites, the old version, because it still allowed me to share the student sites with the world.

I liked a good number of things about this project, but most importantly for me, I liked that what I believed about my students was true, even my students who shy away from technology can grasp its use and run with it in a creative fashion WHEN THEY CHOOSE!  (Yes, I just dropped all caps, but they deserve that.)  They handled the uncertainty of trying something new, along with the malleable nature of the project due to conditions mentioned above and rose to the occasion.  With a bit of prodding I got a number of them to open up with their concerns and questions towards the project and we were able to adjust due dates

There are plenty of things I will adapt as I move forward with my class and this project.  My students, or at least some of them may not be happy with this section, but they were very influential to my thoughts.  I believed, incorrectly so, that giving the students a brief introduction to the project and turning them loose on research would not cause stress. Students were charged with researching a topic and when I returned from the conference we would work on building their websites on the chosen platform.  I explained that I wanted to test a few websites before declaring a definitive project landing space. I was leaning towards using Wikispaces.com as the home for the project and when I discovered the site was closing down I was thankful for my hesitation.  Over the next several days at a conference, PETE and C, I polled my PLN on possible replacements, attempted a weak and unsuccessful Twitter campaign to change Wikispaces mind.

When I returned from PETE and C, I discovered how wrong  I was about student stress.  It took a bit of time upon my return from a conference to calm the frayed nerves, but things settled down with the extra effort.  Eventually students opened up with their concerns and questions and we worked through the process to clear any confusion, or at least I think we did.

This showed that I still need to work on lines of communication. I try to encourage student feedback and input, the attempt is there for them to feel comfortable offering their opinions.  That being said, a number of students were not very willing to open up about their concerns.  Even after I witnessed a number of eye rolls, heard some huffs of frustration, it still took a bit of cajoling to get some to share their thoughts.  I have no issues with giving students a voice and ownership in class activities, it is a good practice for all involved.  It is just an ongoing process we all have to adjust to and this project showed that I still have a ways to go to keep a comfortable setting for open communication.

The projects have not been turned in for yet review, but watching the students work and talking with them as they turn their research into online presentations has made me confident that the projects will be successful.  Students are purposefully trying out new tools such as Smore and Voki to add depth to the content of their presentations.  they seem to understand the concept of adding technology or new tools just for superficial reasons will not benefit their work.

 

 

Guided Focus Study Guide?

Teacher or researcher in library Library NaUKMA via Compfight

Let me start with this declarative statement, “I hate our US History Textbook.” Please don’t get me wrong, in its day it was very good, but it is outdated and set up in a fashion that does not suit my classes.  It breaks eras up so that they may be split over several chapters.  Students would read a chapter on the politics of an era, then then next chapter covers social culture, but we jump back 10 years to start the chapter.  This is rather cumbersome and extremely time consuming in my not so humble opinion.

Our department’s goal was to go without texts, replacing them with primary sources and other materials, sometimes we can achieve that goal.  My iPads are at the end of their useful life, my classes are not split evenly, some are overcrowded and some are sparse.  This combination makes it difficult to assist students when technology glitches in an overcrowded class, but that is for another post.

I have started using the textbooks again, but only sometimes; as an addition to other class information sources.  I have enough copies for a classroom set students can use on site.

Instead of having students complete questions at the end of the section after reading the text, I started giving them a “guided focus study guide.”  The goal is to bolster students’ notetaking ability while letting them pull information to suit their learning style.  I have noticed that when review questions are assigned students do not read the book, they search for answers.  They will skim over important information looking for key words searching for specific details to answer the few questions at the end of each section.  They overlook many important details they need to understand the issues we will be discussing.  

This tendency causes issues such as students not being able to explain why an event happened, in fact sometimes they will complain the topic was never covered in class, when it was in the book and discussed, but was not a section review question.  So…no more section review questions, I use…drumroll please… “Guided Focus Study Guides.”

I need a better name, I know, but it is what it is.  I read the section or the chapter, or whatever the resource is several times.  The first reading is to see if the resource is worth my classes’ time and effort, does it fulfill a purpose.  I also get a rough sketch in my head as to what I believe is necessary for the students to understand for class discussions and how the events affected society as we move forward.

The second reading becomes a bit more labor intensive, Google Docs and/or Evernote are open as I now take notes and ponder what these events led to in the world.  I begin typing out directions on which areas to focus on, and statements as to what to look for in each section of the resource.  I add the specific details I find in the resource to my notes, students will ask all sorts of questions, I need to answer them quickly, especially in my crowded classes.

I run through the resource one last time, adjusting the focus guide and my notes as needed.  I want to make sure the guide meshes with my goals for the resource:

  • is easy to understand for the students
  • do the focus areas guide students in the proper direction.
  • does it flow well with the order of information in the resource.

Students are allowed to fill in the guides however they choose, bullet points or full sentences, on paper, in their notebooks physical or digital, which is easy since the guide is shared through Google Docs and pushed out via Edmodo.

We review the guides after students have class time to work on them, this allows for students to make sure we are on the same page if you will.  I do not make the guides worth many assignment points, many students copy, will just write anything down for points, which is not the purpose.  The purpose is to allow the students to pull information from the resource to further their understanding of the topic.  I assess that through open note essay tests, but once again…that is a post for another day.