Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ten Picture Tour of My School

I recently saw some blog posts where people were sharing ten pictures from their school. The purpose being to share a little bit about your school and in turn get to know people in our PLN a little better. I spent my plan period walking around my building and took these ten pictures to share with my readers a little piece of my "home" at Lincoln Junior High School. You will notice that I doctored up some of the pictures...because I like doing that sort of thing. Enjoy!



  This is our band room. Our performing arts is a big part of our school and proud point for all of us.


This is the wall in one of our gyms with the signs of all our conference championships we have won in various sport. I am responsible for a few up there as a coach...



This is a picture taken inside of our courtyard that my classroom actually looks out into. In the middle of the "patio" area there is a large lizard/dinosaur statue that was donated to us by a local artist.




In the front plaza of our school we have a large rock dedicated to a past principal as well as our flag pole. This is where our student population congregates in the morning and after school.



This is one wall of my classroom...mine green screen is hanging ready for action. It would be wrong not to include this as many of you know me for some of the green screen aided videos I have created.




This is a nice picture of the floor in our wood gym. Again, athletics, intramurals, and PE are a big part of our school.



This is one of our two long hallways that run parallel in the school. During passing periods they are cramped with kids.


This is our "tile gym" that is used for PE and also serves as our cafeteria. There is also a large rock climbing wall and mural of a castle on the back wall.



This is a picture of one of our many science labs where students do all sorts of cool labs that include the famous Egg Drop and Diet Coke and Mentos rockets.


This is a view of the side of the building with the open fields that are used for recess, athletics, intramurals and various outdoor activities.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Class Update 3 - Learning should be viral

This is my latest update in my series about changing to a student driven classroom. There are two things that happened in the past two days that caused me to reflect and reevaluate some of my thinking. The first was a rather remarkable thing that happened this afternoon in class. Students were working on a variety of activities both as groups and individuals. One of the groups was discussing a novel they were reading, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. In the midst of their conversation about character development they went off on a tangent as 6th graders often do. The tangent they went off on was a discussion of the first book in this series being turned into a movie. They proceeded to discuss the characters in the novels and who would play them in the movie. While this may seem like off task behavior it was actually a fruitful conversation.

Students started talking about different descriptions within the novel to justify their choices for the actors and actresses. This included specific page numbers and direct quotes from the novel. As a teacher, I was just sitting back and letting this conversation move forward. Then something kind of cool happened…other students started joining the conversation from other corners of the room. It was spontaneous and almost viral the way the conversation spread. To me, this is how learning should be, spontaneous and viral in nature. It should start whenever, wherever, and be free of restrictions.

The other thing that happened was not as positive but equally valuable. I had a handful of students that were working on a series for reading standards for the past few days. During a meeting with them earlier this week I discovered that they were heading in the wrong direction. The work they had been doing was misguided and off target in terms of the learning standards. Rather than chastise them for a lack of progress, I got upset with myself for missing their missteps. I spent the rest of the period working with them to get back on track and give them the attention and guidance that I should have from the start.

What I learned from this experience was that some kids need more direction and I can’t assume they are doing what needs to be done. I gave up more control in my class and provided my students with more freedom but that can come at a price. In this case, I needed to provide more direction and guidance than I had provided. There are some students in my class that are in complete control of their learning destinies, but others such as this group, needed some help identifying and pursuing that destiny.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Addiction

I have been reflecting a great deal lately and am finally ready to recognize I have a problem. I am hoping my PLN will be able to help me move through the process of recovering from my addiction. Unlike, most “step” programs, the intent of this process will not be to eradicate my addiction completely, but to get it under control.


Yes, there are other things at play, but twitter appears to by my gateway drug of choice. It is through twitter that I am up late at night reading blogs, commenting on blogs, lurking in online conferences, watching Ted Talks, among other shady online activities. When originally writing this post, I was going to mimic a twelve step process but thought better of it. I didn’t want to devalue the process of “real” addicts, and wanted to get straight to the point.

Over the past 6 months I have been on twitter building a PLN, of which I am extremely grateful for. However, I have not been very good at policing myself and for lack of a better term, I am addicted. I am staying up late reading blogs, retweeting, and constantly with my computer or phone in my hand. As with any good addict, I really didn’t even notice how bad it was. I was content and felt more connected and in tune with education in a universal sense than ever before in my life. My borders were widened and I gained more perspective in those 6 months that many years of formal education and teaching experience.

So, what’s the problem? Well, I am losing time that I was spending on other things. I am not heading out for my nightly runs as often. I am sending tweets from the dinner table. I am constantly looking at my phone to see if someone tweeted while I was in the bathroom…and in some cases bringing my phone into the bathroom. I am not playing as many video games. My two year old started asking me, “are you tweeting?” In conclusion, my priorities have shifted and I am not comfortable with it.

How did it get this way? Well, it was easy. I started very slowly at first and then it picked up speed. People started reading my tweets, retweeting them and then following me. In no time, I was deeply engaged in numerous weekly chats and loving every minute of it. I had created a “persona” that I worked hard to create and therefore wanted to keep up. People were following me, or so I think, to read what I was reading and tweeting. Many of us dedicate a great deal of time to connect ourselves because like a good video game, you need to build up experience points to get the street credit. It is that street credit that allows you to more fully engage in the conversations and create a powerful PLN. Let’s be honest, you have to put yourself out there if you really want to connect and get the most out of the twitter experience. I would be lying if I wasn’t looking at my list of followers growing with a sense of satisfaction. In addition, I got a good feeling when people replied to me or “retweeted” me. Is that wrong? I would be willing to believe I am not the only one out there…just the only one willing to admit it.

With all this in mind, I am taking a step back. I will still be there, but not as often. I need to restore balance and reassess my priorities. I will continue to blog about my learning and my evolution as a teacher. You will still see me in the occasional #chats throughout the weeks. I still hold the power of twitter and social media in the highest regard as a form of professional development and a collaborative space. However, I plan on focusing more on the truly important things in my life which includes my family, my students, and me.

The beauty of twitter and my PLN is that like a 24/7 buffet, they will always be there when I need them…without the heartburn.