Friday, June 18, 2010

Tech tools to check out this summer.

Today is the last day of school. Graduation was last night.

My grades are done and submitted, my classroom is cleaned and organized, and everything is packed up for the summer. Now what?

Well, I'm still thinking about what I want to change for next year (see the two posts below this one) and deciding what new tech tools to play with this summer and see how they can help improve teaching and learning in my classroom.

Here's my list:
  • Glogster
  • Introduce Twitter to my students (I use it, but thinking of using it as a CRS or backchannel).
  • More student blogging.
  • Student website in AP Physics where they will create the site as their own study guide and resource for the year. Then, each year other classes will add and modify it.
  • More Discovery Education resources.
  • Edmodo
  • Thinkfinity
  • Use more NASA resources in my Physics classes

I also have some other responsibilities this summer:
I teach an EMT Class and Paramedic Class.
I am on the committee to change the EMS-Instructor curriculum for Connecticut.
I am a new member of the DEN Leadership Council for Connecticut.
Keep up with my TL Advisor blogs for Tech&Learning magazine.

I also need to relax and recharge for next year.

What tech tools are you thinking of investigating to use next year?

Related Posts:

Friday, June 11, 2010

What I learned this year.

I just replied to a question Shelly Blake-Plock posted on his blog, Teach Paperless, "What did you learn this year?". (His blog is really good, check it out).

Here is my list of some of the things I learned this year:

1. Twitter is a great tool for educators.
2. My Personal Learning Network has taught me too many things to list.
3. Students will continue to surprise me (in great ways)
4. Politicians and some administrators will never "get it"
5. That I saved a ton of money in my classroom (and working to do it in rest of building/district) by using open source /free resources and cutting down on paper use.
6. That I need to take a breath before dealing with classroom management issues when I'm already tired or cranky.
7. That my students are awesome (already knew that - but it's nice to see it every year!)
8. That I still love being an educator

What did you learn this year? Post it here or over at Teach Paperless.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reflecting on the Past School Year (And preparing for next year)

I'm done with my school year. I have all seniors and they finished their finals yesterday. Graduation is on the 17th and the 18th is the last day of school. As I sit here having finished all my grades, I start to reflect on the past year. What worked? What went right? What went wrong? How did I handle classroom management issues? How well did my students learn? Lots of questions to answer and get ready for next year. I do this throughout the year too, but this is the point where I can really plan and make changes for the following year.

One thing I do to as an evaluation of the year is to have my students fill out a survey about the class and their experience. It asks them to rate things such as was the classroom and equipment (labs and projects) adequate, was enough time given for demonstrations and review, how well did the teacher answer student questions, and their thoughts on assignments and work given. It also asks about me: did I set a climate that was conducive to learning, did I effectively communicate with students, did I address their needs and issues, and were the teaching methods effective. I also have space for them to write comments about what they liked about the class and what they think should be improved. They can put their name on it or it can be anonymous.

I do take the surveys with a grain of salt. Some students write all "4" (highest score) and some complain that everything was too hard. But I do get a lot of great feedback and ideas. Some times I am surprised by the level of sophistication that I my students have and how insightful they are about their classes. (I've also used this model with pre-service teachers).

After I've read through all of the surveys and taken notes, I sit and think about the whole year. I try to be critical of things so that I can really evaluate how things went. I am going to implement some of the things I've come up with and some of the things my students noted, but I am also going to keep my lessons flexible so that I can modify them once I've met my students next year and see what they are like and what they need. I believe in constantly assessing how I am doing as an educator and how well my students are learning and changing and modifying things as needed throughout the year. The end of the year and summer are great times to come up with lots of different ideas so that I have a collection of ideas to use next year.

Ongoing Assessment is a term we use in EMS for constantly monitoring our patient and changing our treatment as needed based on the patient. This is also something we do in education. We change things to meet the needs of our students.

Next year I'm going to utilize the classroom blogs and Google Forms to get more feedback from the students throughout the year. I'm also looking at different ways to assess their learning more often, and have a toolbox of ideas and lessons to use when I have to change things up or modify things.

As I write this, I keep having thoughts about issues I've had and how to change them next year. I'm also thinking about the type of teacher I am and what I can do to improve my attitude and persona to make me better. I think one of the things I'm going to do this summer is watch a few movies about teachers (Lean on Me, Freedom Writers, Stand and Deliver) for motivation, and keep active with my PLN (Personal Learning Network) to share ideas, thoughts, and resources. I want to come back to school next year enthusiastic, motivated, and ready to have some fun while educating. I want to make sure I am ready to be the best educator I can be. The only way to do that is to be prepared and constantly evaluate the teaching and learning in my classroom and modifying it as needed.

How do you evaluate teaching and learning in your classroom? What do you do at the end of the year and summer to prep for the next year?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dropbox - file sync, backup, and sharing

Dropbox is a service that allows you to sync your files on your computer with their system as a backup. This also allows you to access the files anywhere. You can also sync the files across multiple computers. This means that you have automatic backup of your files and 24/7 access to your files. I have it set up to sync a folder on my home computer and school computer so I don't have to worry about having multiple versions or forgetting a flash drive.

There are also Dropbox apps for iPhone, Android, iPad and there is one coming for Blackberry. There is an independent app for Palm webOS, but you can also access the mobile site from any web-enabled phone. Imagine being able to access all of your files on your smartphone!

You can also share files with others. I teach EMS classes (EMT and Paramedic) and the course coordinator shares files on it with instructors through one folder and students in another folder. It makes things very easy for all of us.

Plans are as follows:
Basic - 2GB - Free
Pro50 - 50GB - $9.99 / month or $99 per year
Pro100 - 100GB - $19.99 / month or $199 per year

Dropbox is a great service for teachers and students. Access to all of your files anywhere, backup of your files, and the ability to share files.

UPDATE: One feature that is very nice is the fact that it works with network drives like we use in my district. Some of the other cloud file storage and sync systems can't work with network drives. I was very happy to see this was able to be done with Dropbox.

Related article:
"Cloud File Storage, Sync, Backup" (features similar services to Dropbox)

UPDATE: is another online file storage, sync, and backup service that I just learned about an it also offers a 2GB free account. I haven't used it, but it seems to work the same as the others.


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