Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer Projects

I haven't posted in quite a while, its Wedding season here in New England and between that and the end of the year activities fast approaching I've put my blog on the back burner. I plan to update throughout the summer however as I have several projects I'll be working on to improve my classes for this fall. I'll be rambling and thinking my way through those on here in the coming weeks, but at the moment this is simply a stream of conscience post so that summer's ice cream enduced haze won't wipe out all the thoughts I had:

Project 1: Going paperless....well nearly. I'm pretty sure I routinely take out a forest or two during the school year. I'd like to get all of the notes, worksheets, and readings that students complete bound into a notebook for them. I'd also like to have the notebook available to fill in online, so that for the coming year students can pick which way they'd like to fill it in. Other than this initial hand out, I'd like the rest of the year to be paperless. We're not a 1:1 school so I would have to think carefully about how this could work, I think having students bring their own devices could help.

Project 2: BYOD (Bring your own device). I piloted this idea with two small groups of students in two different classes and it was wildly successful. I found students able to use them for research far faster than our lap top computers. I found that 90% of the time they were using these devices for school related work. The other 10% of the time I found that they were listening to music, which to be honest I'm ok with. Many students appeared to work very calmly on their projects while listening to music and still managed to collaborate with peers. We are always teaching students various study methods, for some of them music is part of that...why not let them try it out. In order for this to be successful I need to develop some kind of guidelines, as well as meet with school admin about getting access to wireless. Currently my students can only access it if I have the laptop cart with the wireless transmitter in my room...which defeats the purpose in the long run.

Project 3: Leveling my classes. Yes, one of my main reasons flipping was to make differentiation easier. Even before the flip I have always made sure to differentiate for those students on IEPs. What I hoped to achieve with the flip was to challenge my very advanced students who often get bored in their classes. I'd like to take this a step farther this year. Students currently work their way through "content folders" on Schoology. There are lectures and quizzes for each unit. I'd like to level those folders, so that everyone will get the state standards, but those students who would like more of a challenge can listen to lectures that cover deeper content than the standards. Which brings me to Project 4:

Project 4: Creating better content folders. My vision is that each week there will be an online content folder containing not just "videos" but readings, webquests, discussion threads, and quizzes that students should complete. I'd like to see them developing critical questions in response to readings and making connections to the lectures. I'd also like to see the out of class discussion threads get more use. They were being used at the beginning of the year quite well, but I would like to see them become something students want to do rather than have to do as part of their grade. I'm on the hunt for a secure educational chat room for the students, one where we could have a synchronous discussion, even set times for extra help, but that would be secure and that students could only access with me "present." I know some educators have "hang spaces" in Google+, I'll admit I haven't jumped on the "+" train yet but intend to explore it this summer.

Project 5: Personal content building. I'll admit that while I enjoy teaching Ancient History, my passion (and really my area of expertise in terms of teaching) lies in American History. It has been a personal struggle for me to deliver content in this area with the same enthusiasm. This summer I have created a reading list for myself and plan to take some free online courses through Yale Open Courses and some other places. My goal is to gain insight into all those "little known facts" that make history fun and interesting. I have a myriad of these facts for American History, but I want to discover them for the content that I teach. I spend so much of my time trying to read up and learn about the newest technologies, and implementing them into my classroom, sometimes its good to go back to basics and think about the content itself, after all that is what is at the heart of all of this right?

Project 6: Relax. Spend time at the beach. Grill. Read for fun. Travel. Explore. Spend time with family and friends. Not think about work. Revel in the fact that "summer vacation" and "first day of school" are still part of my vocabulary as an adult. Remember the excitement those two phrases hold? Summer is a time to recharge the batteries and ready ourselves for another year. That's one of the best perks of the job, right?

We still have three weeks of school left, so I will still be posting as I wrap up my first flip, but I'd be kidding myself if I didn't say my thoughts (as well as my students) have already begun the turn toward summer. There are so many other things that I want to accomplish this summer, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but if I honestly complete two things on this list I'll consider it a success. What are your educational plans for the summer? 

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