Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Five Credit Class Can Be Different for Each Student

Most high school courses are five credits each, and that means all students work through the same curriculum in order to earn them. Even within the structure of a course, online or face to face, a five credit class can be different for each student.

How can we make that happen in a 21st Century (Is there another term we should start using?) school setting?
How can we ensure that there is enough room for our students, individually, within the curriculum?
How can we allow for the fact that some students will need and want longer in certain areas of study while others will be completely uninterested in others?
How can we determine all of this before the school year starts, and be prepared, flexibly, for anything?

Here are six ideas:

1. Take on the role of a teacher guide. Think of a host at a restaurant, or tour guide. They know their menu and terrain, and have the goal of providing an enjoyable experience, but if you compare your meal or excursion to a friend's, they will not be exactly the same.

It is okay if every student does not have the same exact experience. 

2. Wait to create curriculum until you meet your students.

This might sound impossible, but is it?

3. Create projects rather than tests.

No two projects should look exactly the same, unless students choose to collaborate with each other.

4. Have a general focus and direction in mind for each unit of study, with topics and activities you see as beneficial for students, but allow for plenty of choice within those units.

Be ready to go in a direction you could not have predicted. This will take the pressure off of pace, and put the focus on learning for each student.

5. Find out how your students best learn, and share this information about yourself with them as well.

Respect these differences.

6. Create opportunities for them to think, explore, and reflect as much as possible.

Ask questions without correct answers. Inspire them to be curious.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Enjoy the Journey of Learning

Encourage children to enjoy the ongoing and joyful journey of learning. Let go of the fear and pressure that we must teach every child everything they need to know today, in order to prepare for 'the next thing.' Embrace that if they haven't learned it yet, they still can, anytime, on their own, with support, and because they are inspired.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

10 Ways to Get Started with Technology, Today!

Teachers and administrators want to integrate more technology into their classrooms and schools. This is an overwhelming, but exciting challenge. What is the best, most supportive, and least intrusive way to do this (today)? 

Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a welcome video for students and families to view before the first day of school. If you can, start a blog, and add it there.

2. Take one project that you enjoy, and use a Web 2.0 tool for the creation, collaboration, publication, and presentation. Looking for a project? Check out The Buck Institute for Education website for ideas.

3. Create a Personal Success Plan for yourself and students. If one goal is to gain confidence with technology, put yourself in the learner role, and seek out mentors. Model curiosity. 

4. Join Twitter. It is a bit overwhelming at first, but it is a great professional development tool. You can find me @courtneyhanes.  

5. Explore ways to connect and collaborate for yourself and your students. Here are a few places to start: Tween and Teen Tribune-Online newspapers for students, ePals-A global community, and great resource for connecting with classrooms around the world, Edmodo-A secure social network for teachers and students, and of course, Blogging!

6. Take students on a Virtual Fieldtrip

7. Use Skype and Google Hangout to communicate with students, families, colleagues, and guest speakers. 

8. Check out TED and TED-Ed.

9. Let students bring their own devices into the classroom and use them (Quick BYOD video).

10. Learn as much as you can about changing the way we teach and the way our students learn. Start with Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson's Changing Education Paradigms, and Dr. Yong Zhao.

It doesn't matter where you start, just that you do. We do not want our students to use technology because we told them to. Same rings true for teachers, parents, and administrators. We want to share, collaborate, and evolve together, and because we see the benefits. 

Have ideas to add? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Learning to Blog

The purpose of my blog is to share ideas, collaborate, connect, learn, grow, and inspire. I am a very curious person, and I am also a very passionate person. My biggest passion is education, particularly online and blended learning. My blog is an extension of my other passions too: my family, ideas, poetry, and things I want to learn more about. What I hope to use my blog for most is creating a connected community, working toward compassion. Online learning helps me teach in a way that is beneficial, personal, and creative, and although also extremely exhausting, it is also extremely rewarding.