Saturday, June 11, 2011

Best School Year...Ever

The school year has come to an end and to put it plainly, it has been the single greatest school year of my relatively short career. It has been a year of learning and progress for both my students and me that will be tough to duplicate. Here is a list of things that I was either a part of or facilitated in the past year.

Standards Based Grading

I made the complete plunge into a hybrid version of standards based grading in all of my classes this past year. While I can not go to a true version, I feel as though I made great progress within a traditional system to a more accurate method of progress reporting. I have never felt more confident that my student’s grades accurately depicted the learning that took place.

EdCamp

I participated in my first edcamp in the spring at edcampchicago. It was a great experience to learn and connect with bright educators in the Chicago land area. I think the whole concept of the edcamp is great and looking at trying to get professional development days at my school to be run in a similar manner.

Lip Dub

Together with my computer club kids, we organized and pulled off an all school lip dub. This was no small feat as it involved nearly 700 middle school students. It was a great community building experience for the school and will certainly be an event those kids and teachers will remember for the rest of their lives.

Innovation Day

This was a great day and if you follow my blog you certainly read about it. As I previously wrote, it was a great day of unfiltered learning and innovation. It is something that took on a life of its own and has been replicated in numerous other classrooms across the US. I am not a huge fan of recognition, but it was pretty cool that Daniel Pink read about it and wrote about our day on his blog.

Research

This year I was active in the #ecosys crew on Twitter and engaged in a conversation about the work of Sugata Mitra. As a result of that conversation, I engaged in my own version of action research within my classroom. My goal was to see for myself if Mitra’s theory of group work and its impact on overall academic performance and learning was valid. It was a great learning experience for me and I know my students greatly benefited from the experience as well.

Student Driven Learning

As a result of both the action research and the work around Innovation Day, I made a huge shift in my teaching to be more student driven. It is without a doubt one of the greatest decisions I have made within my classroom. It started with my resigning from teaching and then putting the power of learning squarely in my student’s handsFor those that have yet to check this blog list out, you can read about my updates “It’s About the Learning”, “Learning Should be Viral”, “One on One is the Best”, “Sub Plans”, "I Am Done" and "My Brother Has Cerebral Palsy."

Conferences

I was blessed again to be accepted to present at the Illinois Education and Technology Conference as well as the Illinois Computing Educators Conference. These conferences are always a good chance to learn from and with like-minded educators. In addition, I participated in my first online conference in the winter at the Reform Symposium. It was a great experience and I look forward to participating this summer as well.

Tutorials

As many know, I am a bit of a movie nerd and that covers everything from watching to making them. I spent a great deal of time this year creating tutorials and posting them on my blog. I am especially proud of the Twitter 102 one that many people have found helpful. I am looking forward to spending some time this summer creating some more.

Jedi

I have made some more progress to being accepted into the Jedi council…it is a long and arduous process.

Blog

One of the best things I did this year was started a blog. I have learned so much through my blog that I truly did not think was possible. My reflections have helped me hone my craft through self evaluation as well as peer feedback. I would encourage every educator to start and keep a blog simply for themselves. For me, it is almost therapeutic to write about my work and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Twitter

By far and away the best thing I did this year was join Twitter. This has opened doors for me that I did not even know where there. The connections I have made and learning I have participated in is just staggering. It is one of those things that is truly hard to explain and is foreign to those that are not “on” Twitter. However, I will promise that if you give it a chance, it will change the way you think, learn, and ultimately teach. Many of the ideas and new directions I took my class this year, were influenced by my interactions on Twitter. The connections made on Twitter are real and it will broaden your professional development far beyond your school or district.With that being said, I have also struggled and continue work on getting the most out of Twitter while retaining my professional and personal balance. The beauty of Twitter and social media in general is that you get out of it what you put into it.

It truly was a year to remember and I am both anxious and excited about what next year will bring. I will continue to push the envelope and seek better ways to do what I do. I will never be satisfied with what I am doing and will constantly look for ways to make the learning experiences for me and my students that much better.