Fort Herriman Middle School


A Learning Experience
August 26, 2008, 8:56 pm
Filed under: internship, learning

A couple months ago, I commented on how great it is when learning is frustrating. Well, it is still great, but sometimes it is not that great. As you may have noticed, I took off all the posts from my internship this summer. My principal made a good point, she said that I was privy to a lot of information and that I didn’t realize how much trust I was given.

I know that I make mistakes and that I am not perfect, but I sure don’t like being told about it.

The feelings that I experienced when she told me were very conflicted. I was sad, hurt, offended, suddenly aware of the weight of that job, and extremely grateful that she told me how she felt. It is not fun to be called out, but it is sometimes needed.

Thank you Mrs. P. for a wonderful internship, and helping me learn something that was hard to swallow, but needed to be said.

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TechnoThursdays and PD
April 24, 2008, 9:49 pm
Filed under: internship, professional development, technothursdays

Darren Draper, my hero, posted a great thought about Professional Development. He runs a great program called OpenPD. He just finished his third session, and reflected about it. I suggest you read it to fully understand my comments here. Darren asks these questions:

  1. How do we transform OpenPD so as to attract the kinds of teachers that aren’t the most technologically savvy?
  2. How do we garner the participation of additional groups of teachers? Sure, individual participation from wherever you may be is fantastic, but a class of multiple classes would be ideal.
  3. What can be done to provide OpenPD participants with local district credit – enabling additional rewards other than the intrinsic?
  4. Considering question 3, are such extrinsic rewards really needed or would they only taint the enthusiasm for such an endeavor?

@Clay, How can you say RSS is dead? You just said the other day that this is too new! Perhaps RSS is dead to you, but that doesn’t mean it is dead to others.

Darren and Sarah: Teachers and any other professionals hate PD because it is PD. As my professor this last semester said about a hundred times as she lectured us with the same style of PowerPoint without letting us interact, “The days of a one-stop-dog-and-pony-show Professional Development are over!” When we tried to participate in that discussion, she ignored us and lectured more about the need for collaboration in adult education. (Pardon me, I got distracted by hypocrisy.)

If we call it PD, people are going to hate it without knowing anything about it.

Also, I have mentioned numerous times that if you want OpenPD to attract normal (non techy) teachers, we need satellite groups of teachers to start inviting other teachers at their school to participate in technology sessions or experiences. My TechnoThursdays has only been successful because they are developing professionally and they don’t even know it. It is not even that successful, there are only 4 or 5 people that show up each time. But if you think about all the middle schools in our district doing that, that is nearly a hundred people participating in professional development while enjoying it and not knowing that they are being duped! But it is not about duping them, it is about creating a safe environment for teachers to explore technology and learn new tricks. If they can learn about it at a safe place, they can feel more comfortable trying it out on their own.

In addition, we might have some better success if we are not focusing on the bleeding edge of technology. This goes back to Clay’s idea that RSS is dead. Maybe since it is dead, some teachers will start using it. Maybe we should look at teaching them how to properly use Excel or their grading programs or some other type of software. My biggest takeaway from TechnoThursdays is that I need to teach relevant topics, and go s-l-o-w. This should be part of any PD.

TechnoThursdays went so well today because we talked about a way to specifically integrate technology into their different subject areas in a way that made their lives easier and more productive. That is what gets them coming back.

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TechnoThursdays Session 5
April 11, 2008, 6:31 pm
Filed under: internship, technothursdays

TechnoThursdays went great. We didn’t have as many people there, but I think that I got the video to work better this time. We talked about blogs and everyone was able to keep up well. One of the other teachers couldn’t make it, so she watched the session today. Last week I talked about going slow and providing something useful. I didn’t plan as much today, and I think that made it a lot better. I took my time and didn’t feel rushed.

I enjoy seeing everyone posting to their blogs. Right now they are just posting assignments for students, but someday I hope to get them more involved in the blogosphere. We will see.

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TechnoThursdays Session 4
April 4, 2008, 1:14 pm
Filed under: internship, reflection, technothursdays

TechnoThursdays wiki for this session.

You can watch the video at the link above, if you choose. Please fill out the survey, too.

This week’s session was way better than last week’s. I felt really rushed last week, and the class didn’t go very well. I think Google Docs takes a mental shift. I don’t think most of them were ready for it. I am frustrated with myself for not being aware that it would be difficult. I should have known.

This week we did blogs. We set up blogs so that the teachers could post updates to their blogs each day about what they did in class. I think this is a great because they can make their lives easier. Students who need assignments from the previous day can get it there.

What made tonight’s TechnoThursday really successful?

  1. I was very prepared.
  2. I was teaching them something they could use right away.

As a teacher of adults, I need to be prepared. As a teacher of adults, I need to teach them something that they can meaningfully use right away.

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Meeting the DuFours!
March 28, 2008, 11:06 pm
Filed under: internship, leadership, plcs

Last week my principal came into my room to ask me if I would be interested in attending a Principal’s Academy conference with him where Rick and Becky DuFour would be speaking. For the uninitiated, Rick and Becky DuFour are the big names in Professional Learning Communities (PLC). A PLC is a collaborative community of school personnel that works together to ensure that not only does every child learn, but also that when they don’t learn, there is a systematic process in place to help them learn. Aside from technology integration in schools, this is what education should be all about. I would even say that if I had to choose between the two, I would take PLCs without even thinking about. When I served as director of Academic Activities at BYU-Idaho, I started on this path. Though I didn’t have the same words for these ideas way back then, the idea of a PLC and collaboration amongst teachers is what pushed me over the edge to become a teacher. If you would like more info about PLCs, please go to AllThingsPLC.info.

Rick DuFour has a great sense of humor, and it showed in his book, and in this presentation today. He jumped into different accents on numerous occasions and told humorous anecdotes to get his point across. I would try to reproduce one verbatim here, but I would only butcher it, and if I can find a recording or even the written anecdote, I will certainly post it.

Briefly, he talked about an eye surgeon giving his sister a painful and dangerous operation to fix her vision that would take a year to complete for both eyes. Then he wanted his eyes fixed just 7 years ago. The doctor had Lasik eye surgery by then and said he would be zapped a couple times with lasers, and then be at 20/20 vision in just 72 hours. DuFour said that if the doctor had done the same procedure that was done to his sister, he probably could have sued him for malpractice, since the technology and skills and best practices had been discovered by this time. He likened that to teaching: the research shows that collaborative teams show significant gains in student achievement–as a teacher, do not commit malpractice by not doing what research shows is the best thing to do to help kids learn.

Here are the Big ROCKS that I got from the meeting today:

  • Teachers need time to stop and think. (Much of the following will come if teachers can actually stop and think about what they are doing.)
  • What we teach is the same across our grade level team
  • How we teach it is and must be individual
  • Intended curriculum is what the state (or other body) wants us to teach
  • Implemented curriculum is what actually gets taught. There is a difference!!!
  • Teachers need to commit to being actively involved and doing what needs to be done in a PLC. (In the words of my principal, “we aren’t just going to have people ‘mail it in.'”
  • Say NO to averages
  • Extra help and tutoring for struggling students is no longer optional (build it in to the time they are at school. No more after-school tutoring! AMEN!)
  • Celebrating is like voting: do them both early and often.
  • “The one thing leaders of any organization must know to be effective is the importance of clarity–communicating clearly and consistently:
  • the purpose of the organization,
  • the primary clients it serves
  • the future it is creating
  • the indicators of progress it will track, and
  • the specific actions members can take immediately to achieve its long-term purpose and short-term goals.” -Marcus Buckingham

At the end of the conference, my principal asked, “Are you truly willing to let this impact your classroom practice and be a leader and an example to others at our school to push us the rest of the way toward a PLC?”

Yes, I will.

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TechnoThursdays Session 3
March 27, 2008, 8:45 pm
Filed under: internship, technothursdays, ustream

Below you will find the video for session 3 of TechnoThursdays. It is about 30 minutes long. We are talking about Google Video. The first part is muted, since we were watching a video, and it would just give an echo loop if I didn’t mute, it, so push play here, then go watch this video on YouTube.

During TechnoThursdays, we talk about how to make our lives easier as teachers. Sometimes, I feel like I am just confusing the heck out of everyone there. This was a really rough week for me. I had a LOT of stuff going on with school and work and work and family and church (yes, work was repeated twice on there, remember, I got a second job!). I didn’t get to plan for this session as much as I would have liked to, and that frustrates me. I felt rushed the entire time. The majority of people did say that they didn’t want TechnoThursdays to last more than an hour at the most, so I was trying to keep it relatively short. I had a lot to get through, and I think that it was difficult for them to keep up, because I was really going fast. I need to remember to slow down and make it useful for them. If I don’t, nobody will want to come anymore.

For the first session, I took the time to put myself in their shoes and tried to figure out the questions that they would likely ask me. This week, I just didn’t do that. I forgot to ask a key question, and that made it very difficult. One teacher requested that TechnoThursdays help her use technology to more effectively teach math. When I read that comment in the survey from the first session, I thought about it briefly, but didn’t put the time in that I needed to. I need to take the time to adequately prepare. (Hopefully, she doesn’t read this and see that I am screwing up already!!!)

Next week I am going to talk about blogs. I am going to talk about them as a way for teachers to update their students, or remind their students what they did in class. My team science teacher has a blog that she updates regularly for her students. I will use that one as an example. I am going to suggest that they include some extra credit assignments on there to help kids get in the habit of checking. Blogs also function as a great communication tool with parents. Parents could leave comments on the blog and ask questions or make a mockery of the teacher (let’s hope not, right?).

I will also mention using blogs as a reflective tool, like a journal. I don’t know which is harder: writing a blog as a journal, or as an informational piece. What do you think? I use this blog as a reflective journal, so I am not surprised at all if nobody reads or comments. I do believe that a blog can be a very effective way for a person to reflect. I think that putting it out there where someone could stumble upon it forces you to think about what you are writing.

Well, here is to wishing that session 4 will be better than session 3.

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TechnoThursdays Session 1
March 13, 2008, 8:18 pm
Filed under: internship, technology, technothursdays

First of all, thanks to Pamela, Matt, Marcia, Jeff, Kara, Angela, Linda, and Pam for coming to TechnoThursdays today. I enjoyed working with each of you and I hope that you enjoyed learning some new things.

We talked about RSS. I showed the Common Craft Show video “RSS in Plain English.”

Here are my thoughts. There were seven people there: that was a great number. Not too many, not too few.

I love technology, and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to use it to help me be a better teacher. Of course I get frustrated when things don’t work, but I understand that sometimes it doesn’t go as planned. My biggest fear with doing TechnoThursdays is that people will be put off by the learning curve of new technology. It always takes a while to learn new things, and if you don’t have the commitment to seeing it through to make sure that it is or is not worthwhile, it is very easy to give up.

How can I help these teachers push through the learning curve and make it through?

Right now, I don’t know, but I have a few ideas:

  • I need to help them see how it is useful. They need to see that kids are achieving better because of what I am doing. This is a hard one to measure. In language arts, it is difficult to see. I need to find/create some assessments that will show that what I do helps my students.
  • I started the session by showing them the things that I have done this year with technology. I went through those examples very fast; I thought I might overwhelm them with everything that I have done. I didn’t even get to all that I have done. If I go a bit slower, talk about one thing, and let them ask questions about it, I think they will like that better. They can go on their own time and get a brief history on the wiki. I need to be there to talk about the experience.
  • I need to show them that it helps them. RSS brings websites to them. This will save them time, help them get new information (through sharing, which we also set up), and do other things. I helped a teacher set up student of the month nominations through Google Docs new survey form, and I really hope that it will make her job easier.

I hope that these three simple things work. If you have any other ideas for me, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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