The Power of Reflection

Reflection has always played an important role in my life, in regards to education and just life. This past week has allowed me to grow as a graduate student and as a teacher. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and allowed others to read and analyze my work. I created and implemented assignments that in the past I would not have done. I read about the great things that educators are doing in their classrooms, which has been inspiring.

At the end of last week I had to the opportunity to listen to my classmates present a final “make.” Throughout the semester I have read their blog posts and have learned to understand them. And it was a new way of getting to know someone. In the past most of my interactions with classmates has been face to face. But here, through reading about their experiences and their thoughts and ideas about equity in the classroom has introduced me to a whole new way of getting to know someone. At times it was a struggle for me to just read on. There were times that I was desperate for real-life conversation. But what does real-life conversation mean anyway in 21st century-learning? I have discovered that while I sometimes need the face to face dialogue, blogging is absolutely real-life communication and it is something that I think I should evolve with.

It was exciting and nerve-racking presenting my final make and listening to other’s ideas. I wanted to say so much more. But time affected me, big time! Everyone provided us with some really fantastic ideas that will create equity in education. We all share a goal and that goal is to create what is best for our students. And we are all doing just that! I noticed passion behind their ideas. I noticed dedication. All of their small moves throughout the semester were evident in their planning. I am one that is always eager to hear feedback. This feature during our online meeting was greatly appreciated it! I learned that there are other districts currently implementing my idea of a multicultural event. It was helpful to hear about what they are doing and how I can improve my idea. It was also really important for me to hear from another teacher, Tracey, an art teacher. She expressed that she loves being asked to help with events like this. Considering I am hoping to create cohort groups, made up of students, staff, families and community members, this information is useful.

My small moves, some bigger than others, have helped me see the change I want to bring into my classroom. Seeking equity in connected learning and education has been inspiring, motivating and eye-opening. I have been pushed to try new things. I have seen some successes and some failures. The six principles of connected learning make achieving equity in the classroom manageable and authentic.  One particular principle that stays with me is peer-supported. I want my students to rely heavily on one other for support and collaboration. I want them to learn from each other, just like I have learned this semester from my classmates.

Thank you #ED677 for making this making experience enjoyable, educational and connective!

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A Final Make

“Equity in education is a measure of achievement, fairness, and opportunity in education.” The six principles of connected learning, interest-driven learning, peer-supported learning, academically-oriented teaching, production-centered classrooms, openly networked and shared purpose have led me to create connected learning and equity a reality in the world, well at least create an idea (which I hope to implement in my school) that encourages equity!

My final make is a proposed plan for a multicultural event in my district.  In a world that is constantly evolving, the cultures around us can help us evolve. In a world where we are fighting prejudice and stereotypes, an event like this can aid us in accepting and understanding others. In a world where we want all educational opportunities to be fair and available, this will allow students, families and staff to collaborate, communicate, socialize and create (what they want). Families will be invited to the school to help their children and the staff share elements of their culture or ethnicity with members of the community.  Events will be student and staff and even family created.

The inspiration for the make comes from my own observations. I’ve lost count of the times I have heard, in my class, “Why are we learning Mexican?” It is a constant battle to make students aware of cultural differences, including the difference between a language and a nationality/ethnicity. And even more recently a lack of disrespect of a specific group really affected me. I saw a student draw a swastika on another student’s arm. They referred to the symbol as a window. I immediately became upset. Why would a student do this? But, then I also thought, do they know anything about this symbol? And the answer is…no. I discussed my observation with some of my classes. So many of them didn’t know the difference between a swastika and the Star of David. I then touched upon some history of the Holocaust and they immediately became embarrassed for the student that did the drawing.

Before presenting the idea of a multicultural event to my students I wanted their opinions and views on diversity and culture in their community. My classes were quiet, like really quiet. And then one brave hand went up…

“We don’t have a lot of diversity.”

Then, this comment opened the discussion of their own observations of racism, discrimination and prejudice…

“Our generation doesn’t value culture.”
“I like eating different kinds of food.”
“My neighbor is Amish.”
“Everyone in my neighborhood is white.”
“My family is Swedish and so are some of my friends.”

Some comments came as a surprise and others I expected. Then, I presented the idea of a multicultural night, that will function a lot like a Stem Night that the school just hosted. And all are on board!

“I think an event like this sounds cool!”
“It will definitely be interesting.”
“We should learn more about other cultures.”
“Experiencing different cultures could end stereotyping.”
“Will there be food?”

So, why a multicultural event? Will an event like this really help us recognize and understand the cultures around us? Would an event like this make us more tolerant to the differences we see among our classmates and community members? Absolutely! All of the planning and implementing will include these principles of connected learning: interest-powered, peer-supported, production-centered and shared purpose.

After cohort groups are formed, either by related ethnicity or interest, students, staff, family and community members will collaborate and create the activities and materials for each room for the event. The planning process and preparation for the night, I anticipate, would take about two weeks. Teachers and students will share a purpose and that is to educate themselves and others about the cultures around us in our community. Students will have to opportunity to work on what interests them, whether it is creating Middle Eastern art, constructing the letter home, tweeting about the event, seeking sponsors to help with the event or participating in digital storytelling. Some rooms will require activities to already be made, while others can be created with the help of active participants. All in all, collaboration is evident, support is evident and equity in connected learning is evident! All interested in helping can help. Help can take place wherever and whenever. Students, teachers, families and community members will have to problem-solve, communicate, collaborate and connect and most importantly learn from each other in a 21st century learning experience. 

With keeping my original inquiry question in mind, about connecting with colleagues, I think teachers will be honored to share their expertise and drive to create equity with the students and community.

Objective

  • To educate students, families and staff about different cultures in the school and community.
  • To create connectedness among students, staff, family and community members.

Step 1: Find volunteers (students, staff, families and community members)

  • What do you know about your ethnicity and culture?
  • What role do you want to play in the planning process?
  • Create cohorts (including students, teachers, family and community members)
  • Sponsors?

Step 2: First meeting

  • The goal
  • Size of the event
  • Date
  • Timeline

Step 3: Advertise it! Offer incentives!

  • Post the event on the school website
  • Tweet the event
  • Create posters (pass out in the community and send home)
  • Create phone message for all district recipients
  • Students who attend are rewarded (ie pajama day)

Step 4: Plan the night!

  • Room
  • Culture
  • Activity
  • Food
Room Culture Activity Food Teacher
Room 1 African Digital storytelling (biography)

**reading and writing

*authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
Reading Specialist
Room 2 Variety Social norms/Helping students feel comfortable in the classroom and community

(demonstration of traditional interaction)

*authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
Guidance counselor
Room 3 Haitian/Creole Recreate/rebuild villages and communities destroyed by the earthquake
Problem-solve and determine best options for rebuilding
(utilize apps like minecraft)
*authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
Technology and science teachers
Room 4 Middle Eastern Create modified /traditional art and other artifacts *authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
Art teacher/Tech Ed Teacher
Room 5 Middle Eastern Participate in traditional dances and listen to traditional music *authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
Music teacher
Room 6 Hispanic Provide technology tutorial to help navigate Schoology (the district’s LMS) in the native language

(iPads, projector)

*authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
ESL Specialist
Room 7 Korean Play and create abstract math games *authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
Math teacher
Room 8 Egyptian Take a tour of ancient ruins through Google Earth *authentic cuisine/snack
TBD
Social studies teacher

Step 5: Create materials

  • Map of the building, including where each room/culture can be found
  • Passport for “traveling” community members and students
  • Letter home
  • Decorations

Step 6: Cohort groups meet

  • Plan and create (digital stories, math games, google earth tour, schoology tutorial, art, music, minecraft examples, etc)
  • Plan food menu
  • Practice any necessary presentations

Step 7: Execute!

After the event…

Ideally, I would like to receive feedback in the form of a survey. I would create something like this.

**This is a tentative plan that I would really like to bring to my district, so all feedback is welcomed!**

Coming together with a shared purpose

Learning with a shared purpose:

  • students are tuned in
  • authentic learning takes place
  • connect the real world with what they are learning
  • shows expertise
  • honors knowledge
  • opportunities to explore, expand and collaborate
  • “I know something!”

Above are my initial implications of what learning with a shared purpose looks like. When our students, well any human being actually, have a purpose, then they are tuned in. If they can connect their learning to the real world, then authentic learning takes place. Our students come from all different background and have different background knowledge from one another. But, when we honor their knowledge and give them the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, they then explore, expand and collaborate. Which then leads them to share their “ah-ha” moments: “I know how about this, therefore…or I know something about this, therefore…”

When I was watching “No Water, No Life”: A Video by Detroit Future Schools and Youth from The Boggs School, I felt happy. I felt impressed. These young students did a fantastic way of relaying the message about the water issue. And, more importantly, they did it their way. Clearly, they were comfortable in front of the camera! While I loved watching their acting, I was drawn to their reflections after the news report. They mentioned topics like stereotypes, assumptions, exaggerations, awareness and brainstorming. They had a purpose, a shared purpose. They used what they knew, used their research and worked collectively with the digital media producer in order to produce!

Listening to Danielle Filipiak’s responses to the questions of pre-service teachers is so refreshing! Gosh, I just love her reactions to the questions and her passion behind the answers are so authentic! The second active participant asked Danielle, “How much time do you spend community building in your class?” Immediately, Danielle mentions that this time is spent at the beginning of the year. And I agree, it is so crucial to know our students. And also mentioned is that included in knowing our students, trust needs to be established between teacher and students, students and students, and they have to trust themselves.

My students and I love to share! We share our opinions and observations about activities, we share our interests and hobbies, we share our feelings (especially this week…we shared about how we want a longer spring break), we share about good and bad moments in life. My purpose here..to listen, to help, to engage, TO MAKE THEM FEEL IMPORTANT!

Just this week, my 8th grade Spanish 1 students finished their “make” for the house chapter. As I mentioned in my post, “Reflecting on making…a maker’s experience,” they were to create their ideal house or apartment. I was so happy with the turn out! I have artistic (really, really artistic), creative, free-spirited, regimented, comical, fearful and timid students. Most of them found their niche in collaboration and created some really awesome houses/apartments. Some totally ran with the idea of using recyclable materials, like seen in Caine’s arcade, while others took the technology approach and used apps like Room Planner, Planner 5D and Minecraft! Watching them communicate and collaborate and help others was so breathe-taking. I really found the whole process emotional. The conversations, ideas and work was authentic. I really believe that they knew they had a purpose while making. I observe them communicate while working on worksheets and other activities, but this was different. And I had a role, too! And my role was really out of my comfort zone. But, I survived! After spring break, my students and I are going to reflect on the make and I am really looking forward to hearing about what they thought. Our shared purpose is to create authentic experiences that engage them in the target language and I cannot wait to continue on this journey with them! 🙂

I have a really positive story to share about this making experience! I have student who often is not committed to his work in my class. He doodles on ALL his work. I work one-on-one with him, but he says, “I don’t get it.” The class isn’t interesting to him. But, once he was presented with this opportunity to create, a totally different student emerged. He was immediately engaged. He started doodling/designing, brainstorming, scanning our makerspace for the best materials, aiding others in cutting and assembling and working diligently and committing! And when I read Chapter 6: Shared Purpose, in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, I was able to relate to the story of Roberto. I have finally seen my student’s ability to connect to the material through his interest in the arts and I am so proud!

 

Navigating through openness…where will networking on and offline take me?!

As an active participant in social media, meaning I facebook, I twitter, I instagram, I snapchat, I stalk (sadly, yes) and I network! The world wide web is a fun, exciting and more importantly resourceful tool for everyone! Yes, everyone, from my own toddler children, to my middle school-aged students, to me and to my grandmother! The internet is the perfect example of an open network. All users, including the contributors to the webinar called, Classrooms as Community Hubs: Developing Open Digital Networks, discuss the benefits of becoming openly networked and share their personal experiences. For example, several students express their interest and eagerness to participate online because they are learning beyond the four walls. They are contributing to platforms, with an abundant amount of time. They are finding learners just like them across the world. They are navigating this idea of openness and utilizing their background knowledge of things to make their learning even more open. We find what we are looking for there. We have access to it. It’s a public space FILLED with ideas, questions, concerns, documentation and so much more. There are no barriers. It’s open. And it’s for us!  But, I do raise one question…how do we encourage our students to jump in to the world of openness and make it relevant to their learning and not just for social reasons?

Danah Boyd, the author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, mentions that teens are passionate about finding their place in society (p. 8). I have to agree. My students have opinions, relevant and important opinions. They have ideas, creative and innovative ideas. They are also children and struggle to make their opinions matter. Social media is a fantastic outlet for these issues as long as it is used in a safe way. Facebook and Twitter give our students their outlet, these services promote youth to become members of the public. Boyd mentions four contributions to open networks that create new opportunities and challenges: persistence, visibility, spreadability and searchability (p. 11). By staying persistent and making our opinions and voices visible on the internet, we are creating opportunities to reach learners and teachers just like us across the world and then become a part of their networks that can eventually answer our inquiries and help us create!

Reflection has always been a big part of my career. I have always aimed to create what is best for my students. I am able to adapt and reinvent because I reflect. I observe what is and is not working for them and for me. Becoming openly-networked helps me find our teachers that are just like me, reflectors. Just like Bud Hunt, from Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, I have improved as a teacher and as a learner by reading  about and writing to teachers who are posting about what is happening in the classroom and what they want to be happening in the classroom (p. 71). I am constantly seeking resources for teaching, mothering, graduate school and hobbies. My searches are endless because there is so much to connect to. And my searches are done in school and at home and basically anywhere I go!

I have been teaching for eight years. Throughout my educational journey, I have met teachers who are willing to collaborate and share and reflect together and at the same time I have encountered some who are not open to being open. “To be open isn’t necessarily to reveal everything to everyone. Open classrooms aren’t places where every moment of activity is shared with anyone who wants to see it. There aren’t video cameras recording and distributing every moment of the learning experience. Thoughtful teachers choose intentionally what, when, and how they share what they are curious about and what demands their students’ attention” (p.72). I think this is so important. If we share what truly challenges us and pushes us to create for our students then we are destined to find answers or ideas from others with similar experiences.

“Openly networked experiences are about how and where and when we can find each other and connect. While certainly the technology of our age makes it easier than ever before to connect, connected learning experiences do not require the Internet or digital media to be pure and true connected learning experiences: (p. 72)

“How, I ask, can you help others to see into your conversations and work? To be an openly networked teacher, you must create spaces, opportunities, and experiences for others to follow along in your process” (p. 73).

These two quotes lead me once again to my original inquiry question, Which one (or some) of my colleague(s) would be the most beneficial to connect with? While I am evolving with technology, I also consider myself to be traditional. I am drawn to these two quotes because while I do follow some colleagues online, there are also so many that I want to connect and network with offline. This drive to connect with colleagues (on and offline) brings me to my “small move,” which I explain here in my iMovie!

Boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated. The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Yale University Press. Retrieved from: http://www.danah.org/books/ItsComplicated.pdf.

Hunt, B. (2014). Openly Networked. In A. Garcia (Ed.), Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom (pp. 71-86). Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/files/teaching-in-the-CL-classroom.pdf

 

Reflecting on making..a maker’s experience

Production-centered classrooms facilitate the use of “[d]igital tools [to] provide opportunities for producing and creating a wide variety of media, knowledge, and cultural content in experimental and active ways” (Ito et al. 2013:8).

PBL
Leah Buechley, in her video, makes us readers aware of the issues surrounding equity in the maker movement. We don’t just want our students DIY-ing in the maker movement we want the maker movement to be about education, and we want the opportunity to make to be accessible. Buechley points out that publications in the maker movement, places like Make Magazine have not become spaces with a wide variety of participation where equity is present. As a teacher in a district with less money than other districts in the county, we are constantly seeking equity among our students. And at the same time, differentiating and scaffolding, considering our special education population continues to grow.

In chapter 4, of Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, Clifford Lee (2014) emphasizes the importance of not making production-centered and production synonymous in the classroom, but rather creating an environment where students see meaning and purpose behind what they create (56). Jason Sellers, of the Bay Area Writing Project, also is quoted in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, stating, “Remember: Check with a classmate and/or check the IF guides before asking me for help. You learn by making mistakes and troubleshooting. Your brains stop working when I give you the answer!” (69). This is something I reiterate to my students all the time! There is so much power present in making mistakes, which leads me to my inquiry question of the semester, which has also led me to my make for the week…

Once again, I focus on this question:

Which one (or some) of my colleague(s) would be the most beneficial to connect with?

I am really drawn to the science department in the junior high, if you haven’t noticed I have mentioned in a couple of my #F5F. They are constantly creating/producing/making, but with a purpose. The students are so engaged, making connections and memories as well as challenged. Their students are “tinkering,” exploring creativity, failing and then using resources to problem solve. Right now, in Spanish 1, we are discussing the house, la casa, and differences between the verb, which mean to be, ser and estar. This chapter actually fits so nicely in the world of production, but more importantly production with meaning! This week, not only was I inspired to make because of my inquiry question, my students and I were inspired to make because of Caine’s Arcade and the Global Cardboard Challenge.  Here is my make for the week: Mi casa ideal (My ideal house)/ Mi apartamento ideal (My ideal apartment). **I always wanted to live in a studio apartment in a city.**

 

The purpose behind this creation? Students, next week, will present their ideal house and utilize chapter vocabulary to discuss what it includes, while describing the house and its inclusions using differences between ser and estar. The project has been presented to the students. And I must say, the reaction was 50/50…half thinking this is great, I cannot wait to create, while others went into complete panic requiring very specific guidelines, and then some even requesting to take a chapter test. Some even expressed major concerns over constructing with cardboard, therefore I used the app Planner 5D, to create another make as an example for students. They are free to design their ideal house/apartment on this app, on their school-issued iPad. Check out the examples below. So, we are giving this production a try. I told them we might fail, but we will use each other to pick ourselves up! I cannot wait to see and hear the results!

Here is the status of our library, which shortly will be the official and high functioning site of “The Hub,” mentioned in this week’s #F5F.

 

 

 

 

Using interests to prepare for academics, career and community connections

Preparing our students for continued education, a career or to be respectable individuals in their community is a topic frequently discussed in my classroom. As a junior high Spanish teacher, I often address the question, “Why do I have to learn Spanish?” The answer, you don’t. But, think about this…when applying to a competitive university or trade school where most applicants have the same grade, but you have at least two levels of a foreign language and someone else doesn’t. You stand out. You prove to be an individual who has developed communication skills. Or you are joining the workforce and your customers are Spanish-speaking, you have some skills to prepare you for this. Or you are in your community and you see someone pulled over having car problems, and discover they are Spanish-speaking, or you are volunteering at the local food bank and a family comes in only speaking a foreign language, these situations require you to use the skills you developed in your language class and encourage you to communicate in order to help others.

Just this week, my 8th grade students had to present oral presentations (from memory) about their futures. Their first reaction was, “Whoa, we are going to be 18 or 19!” Scary, right? Most of their plans included attending college, getting a job, buying a car AND I WAS SHOCKED…but, also included in the majority of presentations was understanding a second language. We reflected after all of the presentations and a lot of them shared that they want to understand a second language to advance themselves in continued education or a career. But, another observation from me was the realization that so many of them were terrified to speak in front of their peers. So, we started the conversation about our interests and our levels of preparedness.

After reading about Youth Radio and listening to Asha Richardson, it’s exciting to see a young girl able to put all of her interests into action and bring her success. Her interests, which are very different from one another, are actually able to develop and be combined in a way that allows her to share her passion in storytelling. Becoming a member of youth radio has allowed her to develop networking skills. Her experiences are hands-on. All members developing an app contribute different skills and they learn from one another. She has met mentors, who have aided her along her journey, and now she is serving a mentor and role model to other young girls wanting to put their interests into play and create! I’m looking forward to sharing Asha’s story with my own students!

“Learners flourish and realize their potential when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunity” (Ito et al. 2013:8)

Ito’s thoughts above led me to want to create an app called, InterestME. The following questions guided me toward this idea:

  1. How can we help students clarify interests, abilities and values?
  2. How can we encourage students to utilize their interests to exemplify empowerment and help others?
  3. How do we get students more involved to better prepare themselves for academic settings, a career or their community?

So, what does InterestME look like? InterestME would serve as an online communication tool that allows students and other community members to use their interests to help others on a volunteer basis. It would be an app accessible to members in specific communities. What do I mean? Similar to a Craig’s List, meaning searches are available in specific cities, as well as similar to an online yard sale site, members will have access to joining interest-driven networks. The app would be available within individual school districts for safety. So, students are helping and looking for help in their school district only. For example, InterestME, will have networks like math, science, English, world language, childcare, automotive, landscaping, etc. Students can join 1 or some of these networks, depending upon their interests. When someone posts that they are seeking help with Algebra 1 homework or need help changing a windshield wiper blade on their car or the community food bank needs extra help or an individual is wanting more practice batting and pitching, an alert would go out to those willing to volunteer in that specific network and they can respond and help that individual. This app is intended to for use by students in grade 7 and above. Students will be able to use their interests in a meaningful and productive way, while gaining networking and communication skills.

The guidelines allow a user seeking help, in academics, career or in the community, to post what they need and then a member of that specific interest has the opportunity to volunteer their help. The intent is for students to utilize their interests, while helping others, and discover the possibilities their interests can bring.

An app like InterestME, would be successful in the community and district I teach in because all students, in grades 7-12, have a school-issued iPad. And, I would say 90% of my 200 students have a smart phone. Based on my observations this week in my classes, this app would help them face their fears of talking in front of others, allow them to help in ways that interest them and provide a level of comfort and confidence as well as provide them with real-world, hands-on experience!

Interview 3: User research. 3 individuals provided me with feedback to the 3 questions mentioned above.

Interviewee 1: Assistant Principal grades 7-12

Mr. P provided me with information about some course requirements in our district. There is a course required, Futures, of all students in 8th grade. Here they take several personality and career assessments that provide them with results based on their interests. He mentions how much our students love technology. Their eyes and hands are always on their school provided and personal devices. He thinks that we can encourage them to use their interests towards empowerment if technology is meaningful. Now, with flipped classrooms, podcasts, skype and other resources, they can learn more about their interests and see what their peers around the world, with the same interests, are doing. Every year our district has a huge event for the community, modelling what students in the district are doing. Mr. P says we need to get more students involved. By having more students show their work at this event, it would then lead them to meeting community members who are working in their area of interests and give them the chance to communicate with these members.

Interviewee 2: Pennsylvania Army National Guard Recruiter

SFC K informed me about the SASVAB Career Exploration Program. The test itself is an 8 series test. It goes above and beyond what the SATs provide. Students are tested on areas in math, verbal, science and technical skills, allowing students to test their knowledge on careers in the outside world. Once the test is completed and scored, the students will take an interest-finder, based on John Holland’s personality traits and career finder codes. Students are able to search for careers based on their personality types and SASVAB score. He also mentioned what guidance counselors in the districts can provide for our students. He thinks that providing opportunity to apply their skill set is the best form of motivation. And then from there, showing recognition and rewarding them will motivate and encourage them to continue to use their interests to pursue their future goals. One way to get them more involved in the preparation process is to provide work release, where they leave school after their core subjects and work or volunteer in their interest-driven setting.

Interviewee(s) 3: Some of my students 🙂

I have to say..they actually really like the idea of this app! But, it wasn’t until I explained the app, which came after the questioning process. When I asked them question 1, how can we help them clarify their interests, they responded with the career aptitude test that they take in their futures class. But, then a student contributed something more meaningful. Back in November, we had a career day at school. All 7th and 8th grade students had the opportunity to visit 5 different individuals in different careers. They thought that this was a great way to explore their interests and want to see this become a traditional experience in the junior high. My students are always seeking for rewards. They want to be rewarded for their effort and their work. They have the drive to use their interests in areas like sports, science and art to empower themselves and others, but want rewards. So, while the app is on a volunteer basis, they thought extra credit in the classroom could be given when they show their teacher that they are active participants on the app. I am okay with that idea! 😉 And finally, they shared that they want to know their community more. They want to communicate with others who are already continuing or have continued education after high school and those who have pursued jobs in their area of interest. So, it’s time to provide this experience!

 

Una servilleta del mundo (A world napkin)

map is a representation or reflection of anything. I use several types of maps in life, daily! In class when we are discussing culture facts about the 24 Spanish-speaking countries of the world, or when a student confuses a continent with a country or a country with a city (it happens, hehe), or when my husband is lost (yes, it happens, a lot), or when my children and I document where we have traveled, or when getting ideas down on paper in order to formulate a larger thought or idea, I use a map. This course is truly driving me to reflect and connect. This week when I constructed my map, which yes is actually drawn on a napkin, I could physically see the paths I have taken to get here. I want to connect and stay connected in order to continue my growth, as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter and as a teacher! It is really, really noticeable that my journey to connected learning involves people, lots of people. Socialization is key! “Peer-supported learning absolutely involves having a social connection with others” (Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom 34). Throughout my journey to connected learning I have made several stops to socialize and connect. I started swimming at the age of 4 years old. I made connections with other swimmers and coaches. From this point on my coaches my first year on the swim then connected me with other coaches and I improved my skills. And from here I then became a coach. I taught young and new swimmers to swim. I helped improve skills of already established swimmers. I mentioned earlier, when blogging about my interests, that volunteer work in my community was very important to me. As a mentor in the Big Brother/Big Sister organization, it was my role to create a safe and interest-driven environment for my mentee. I wanted to help this young boy become aware of his potential. I wanted to see him succeed. I wanted to see him enjoy the positives in his life, even when the negatives weighed heavily on him.  And from this organization I developed a relationship with the coordinator who opened the door to even more opportunity. As I went on to college, I used what my peers and mentors taught me about myself. My eagerness to help others grow was an asset. I joined other networks and connected with different groups of people. I joined a sorority, I became an orientation leader, I tutored. These experiences then drove me to expand my networks internationally. I volunteered in orphanages in Mexico. I traveled throughout Europe and got my “volunteer fix.” And now, as a wife, mother and teacher I continue to help. I want my children to be the best they can be. I encourage them to create. I want them to experiment (safely, obviously). I want them to make a difference. In my classroom I strive to create what works best for my students. But sometimes I have to remind myself (and them) that we have to work outside of our comfort zone, but also bring in our expertise, in order to learn. So, join me (or swim with me) through my journey to connected learning! And let’s connect so I can add more to my world napkin!

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Tapping into our interests…

interests

As a kid, I can always remember being asked to write or talk about my interests, which then went hand-in-hand with what I wanted to do when I grow up.  And then that kind of went away. Classes consisted of outlining chapters, memorizing formulas, translating from native language into target language and tests and quizzes. Until recently, I was following these same patterns as an educator. (And of course some of the habits are still occurring..baby steps!) But, now that there is so much research available for educator about unveiling the interests of our students and then creating activities that will benefit them, the lesson planning process has changed. Sometimes when I am presenting a new grammar topic, through lecture, I look around the room at the faces of my students and think I must stop immediately. Their boredom could be contagious!!! I sometimes feel pressured to meet the curriculum requirements. But, just this week I allowed my interests to motivate me to re-invent. I mentioned, a few ago, my interest for service work. Well, another interest of mine was (and still is) swimming.  I have so many students, with so many different interests, ranging from sports, to music, to YouTube channel (including who knows what), to video games, to cooking and so on! Therefore, I have started to create their next, or should I say first “play.” When teaching grammar I either take the traditional path and write their notes on the smartboard OR I implement a flipped classroom and encourage the students to watch a video, created by me, at home so that class time is strictly used for practice. When starting our next chapter, students will watch the grammar- filled video at home and then play in school. They are going to individually or in a group, depending on their interests, create with the new content. They will have choices like a “how-to” video or discuss there future plans. I know I would have really enjoyed a project like this because I would FINALLY learn the Spanish vocabulary for things I am actually interested in! (I plan to share their work here once we get started in the next couple of weeks). I feel like if, as educators, we rely on our own interests to help us create new experiences for ourselves then we can certainly do this for our students. Reflecting on what we would have changed in our own educational experience provides that “ah-ha” moment and drives us to teach what interests our students. Our interests, our students’ interests..they hold power! And that power engages them in their learning and their creation! I came across this blog this week, Learner Interest Matters: Strategies for Empowering Student Choice. The last line of the article says it all! ” If this approach is good for professionals, why not use it for our learners?” It’s so true! When I am interested and engaged, I dig deeper and so will our students. The research says it works so now we just have to do! And then add our positive experiences for all to see!

We are encouraged to motivate ourselves and our students through interests, and after reading some passionate letters from the site Letters to the Next President 2.0, I can identify their passions, their interests, their engagement. I want, I truly want, what is best for my students. I spend a lot of time reflecting on what I can do to make learning fabulous and fun and meaningful. I’m not going to lie here..I do not consider myself a political person at all. At first I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and write about unfair pay, immigration, feminism, etc based on the letters I was reading, but instead I am going to focus on connections I made after reading Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.

To whom it may concern:

I always wanted to be a teacher. I was driven to become a teacher. My interests drove me to want to become a teacher. I studied to be a teacher. I, now, am a teacher. I want to teach. And I want to teach what I am passionate about. I am struggling right now. I am struggling to teach my students what I think they need to be taught by me. There are many obstacles in my way. Other teachers are facing these obstacles as well. How are we supposed to teach our students when we are told what we need to do in our own classroom? For example, we are told that we need to teach to nationalized standards, including how to approach and answer questions on standardized tests. I don’t want to be told what to teach and how to teach it. Just like in college, I didn’t want to take the class “How to teach Spanish,” but instead how to implement some already-established techniques in the classroom. As well as experiment. I wanted to investigate what would work and not work in MY classroom. And I still feel this way. Another obstacle we face is being placed in meaningless and useless inservices that are thrown together last minutes in order for the district to meet its requirement. My students have a lot to say. I hear them. I want to show them that I hear them and create what is best for them. Teachers are constantly reflecting. Let us reflect. Let us rethink and reinvent. Rather than telling us what to teach and how to teach or mandating that we participate in an inservice that is not relevant, let us connect. Let us reflect, together, in a way that is authentic and efficient, in a way that works for us, in a way that will be best for our students. Encourage and motivate us to implement the interests of our students. Provide us time to reflect. Then, mandate that we share our findings and brainstorm what to keep and what to change. And then, let us get back in the classroom and do it all over again. We are teachers. We are passionate, caring, hard-working, committed, dedicated and want what is best for our students. WE have so much to learn from THEM! Let them show us! “Once a fire is lit under students, they easily pursue further opportunities to support peers, find shared purpose, network and produce with others, and connect their passions to academic achievement” (Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom 11).  It’s time to light this fire, they speak of, under teachers so that we can pursue more opportunities to support colleagues and our students and achieve greatness in our classrooms for our students, the ones we are teaching for.

Antero Garcia, Christina Cantrill, Danielle Filipiak, Bud Hunt, Clifford Lee, Nicole Mirra, Cindy O’Donnell-Allen, Kylie Peppler. “Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.” (01 Feb 2014).

Once a learner, always a learner..the power of inquiry.

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“Most importantly, remember that you do not need to reinvent the wheel. YPAR does not involve completely disregarding the skills and activities involved in traditional research projects; instead, it takes those skills to the next level with an infusion of purpose and critical agency.” 

This piece of information was really eye-catching when reading the article, Revolutionizing Inquiry in Urban English Classrooms: Pursuing Voice and Justice through Youth Participatory Action Research. Where to start? The title of a specific section in this article and the number one inquiry that keeps me up at night…So, where do I start? My mind is filled and moving fast with ideas involving invention, creativity, voice and interests. I want to implement these ideas, but always lean on the question, where to start? And now, after reading a couple articles, I still remain “wobbly,” but at the same time reassured that I do not have to start from scratch, but rather use what I have and take it to the next level. So, what do my students and my classroom have? They have background knowledge. They have rules of grammar and an abundance of vocabulary. Why not help them connect with their community and others just like them outside of their community and in the target language. Antero Garcia’s story keeps me engaged. He felt stuck. I feel stuck right now. I loved reading about his ability to take what they were reading in class and alter the assignments. Instead of student-produced analytical papers, his students took the historical social movements from their readings and created a play, produced from research and data, about a real-world issue in their own backyards. I have so much respect for this teacher and his students. He managed to still “teach” the content and then have them demonstrate their understanding through a meaningful and creative and student-centered way. Technology is evolving and so are our students. As long as we are mindful of our technology usage we can do some pretty amazing things!! But, even after reading about Mr. Garcia’s experience, defeating his wobble and seeing some flow, I am still brought back to my wobble..where to start? The Hispanic community continues to grow in the our district. I think it would be rewarding and memorable for the students to become involved within their own community. They could educate the community about getting involved in the school district. This continues to be a growing problem, so why not have the students create a welcoming and comfortable environment for the families. And I strongly believe by creating these opportunities for my students the language and culture of Spanish would be exciting and engaging! In general, it would make the learning experience better!

According to Susan Lytle, in her article, At Last: Practitioner Inquiry and the Practice of Teaching: Some Thoughts on Better , she explains how a doctor took the stance of a learner in order to better her and her treatment. He paid attention to date and her specific situation. I think any human being would be appreciative of this experience. It is never a warm and alleviating encounter with a doctor when they are just spitting out medical jargon, but when a doctor creates an atmosphere that betters you by providing you with specific data about you, it is reassuring.  Throughout this article, Lytle, tells us about the life of Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public health consultant. It’s evident that improvement and betterment that come from change are necessary in all fields. Gawande mentions that despite the obstacles that arise, we are still obligated to improve/get better! His 3 simple requirements in order to be better include, diligence, to do right and ingenuity. These 3 requirements are absolutely manageable!  We expect earnest effort from our students, right? Our principals expect earnest effort from us, right? YES! We should be doing what is expected of us and put forth the effort that is necessary when completing tasks. Last year, I started implementing a flipped classroom here and there. Through observation and data collection I found that students were really thriving while watching the content-filled videos as they were moving at their own pace. It is my duty to continue to create videos and practice so that they can continue to improve and by doing so I better their learning environment and experience. Lytle also writes about a teacher at the Community College of Philadelphia. She faces a moral and ethical dilemma in her class as students enter because  they have not scored high enough on placement tests, despite the fact that they have been accepted into the college, therefore they have to take and pass non-credit courses. I can relate to this situation, as a learner. I, too, had to take a non-credit course my first year of college. It was a writing course. While I felt defeated and set low expectations for myself, I ended up on top because my professor, like the teacher described in this situation inquired: What am I doing here? What am I doing it for? Who am I to be doing it? He made us feel significant. He encouraged us to explore and write about our interests. He provided constructive and meaningful criticism. He made us better writers. And now as a teacher I find the “to do right” requirement in order to become better relate-able. As a middle school Spanish teacher, my class can become a “dumping ground” for students who do not have any other courses to add to their schedule. And in most cases, they come in discouraged and unmotivated, which I get. They are taking a course they want nothing to do with. But, I do not let that effect my relationship with them. As the year goes on, I motivate and encourage them to see their potential and push them to their potential. Being consistently diligent goes hand in hand with ingenuity. We must continue to invent what is best for our students and we do this by being resourceful. We need to create what works for them, observe them and their work, use the results and continue to make things better. Reflection must be present and consistent.

I reflect on lessons, reactions and responses daily, mentally and sometimes make notes, and now I am going to dig deeper and explore who I am becoming as a connected learner and continue to investigate connected learning…

10 Self/10 World Questions:

Questions about myself as a connected learner…
1. How can I get my students to connect with each other?
2. How can I encourage my students to connect to the world?
3. How can I learn to connect more through my students?
4. How can I connect more with my colleagues?
5. Which one (or some) of my colleagues would be the most beneficial to connect with?
6. How can I connect more with other language teachers?
7. Where do I begin when connecting online?
8. Should all of my connecting be done online?
9. How can I connect with my students’ parents?
10. How can I connect with administration about the importance of becoming connected?

Questions about connected learning and equity…
1. Who (students and parents) has access to technology?
2. Can I create equity in connected learning if resources are not available?
3. What technological skills are necessary to possess in order to connect?
4. When connecting, does everything have to be available online? Is printing still an option to those who do not have access to online connection?
5. How can connected learning contribute positively within the district?
6. How can I implement equity into my foreign language classroom?
7. How can I aid my students in becoming more open-minded through connected learning?
8. How can social media be used effectively and safely with the district?
9. Will connecting internationally aid my students?
10. How can myself and my students participate more actively in our already established networks?

Which one (or some) of my colleague(s) would be the most beneficial to connect with?

As connected learning and technology continue to grow so does the desire and motivation to grow with it! Teachers continue to want to better their themselves as teachers as well as the learning environment for their students. Teachers are continuing their education and exploring formally and informally online and not online in order to find new and engaging techniques to bring to their students. Last week, there was a technology conference in Hershey, PA. Five teachers from the middle school attended the 3 day conference. Upon their return, they were refreshed, motivated and ready to share. While not all teachers are quite ready for change in order to better their lessons and learning environments, so of us are! I sat with two of the teachers and was briefed on A LOT of great tools and ideas to bring into the classroom. One of the teachers I met with is a computer teacher and the other is a science teacher. The science teacher has been utilizing apps like Quizizz. He implements a flipped classroom, therefore his students watch a video about the periodic table at home and then played during class time, check it out!  He really is creating a playful and engaging environment. (Feel free to check out some of his work @MrRyneAnthony). Despite the differences in content among the 3 of us, we can learn from each other. I have been invited to observe the new implementations in their classrooms. Through observation I will be able to collect data in order to better my classroom. By connecting with my colleagues I am able to leave my comfort zone and create what my students need. So, how can we emphasize the importance of connecting? And I think the most important question to come from this idea would be, how and when can we find the time to connect? 😉

By connecting with my colleagues I am able to leave my comfort zone and create what my students need.

Check out my Pow Toon! above, which highlights what I want to get from making connections with colleagues.

 

Pose, Wobble, Flow…

Where there is wobblechange is occurring…

These 3 terms are totally new to me. I was nervous about approaching this week’s reading and blogging because of this word wobble. But, after finally committing to the readings and reflecting upon my lessons this week, holy moly I wobble all the time! And then, I rely heavily on my mentors and allies to pick myself up! I usually go into a new school year with at least one, if not more, goal. So, this is my pose. And then after a couple days, weeks or months, my pose sometimes changes as I reach my wobbling point in hopes to reach a flow. And what’s really great after reading this week is that the whole process of pose, wobble flow has helped me reflect at home as well. My husband is currently away for 3 weeks (military duty) and I am working and balancing our home life with a now 4 years (on Friday) and a 5 year old. My 4 year REALLY knows how to challenge me and test my limits, thank God for the 5 year old who levels me, hehe! I strive to set boundaries and consequences for him. When my husband is away these boundaries quickly fade as I convince myself I am in “survival mode” and especially after a long day at work and school there is  some chaos, but of course some of it is organized ;). So, I begin to wobble. Elements need to improve and change needs to occur, I cannot dismiss what he needs from me. I leave my comfort zone of structure in order to keep him happy, but I need to make decisions that are going to make our time safe and fun and promote making good choices that will effect our future. So, this week we made some changes and we were definitely in a flow, which included more communicating, consequences and snuggles! I listened to him. I observed him. I saw how he reacted towards me. I used his interests and passions, and implemented my structure and routine. It worked.

Throughout the year, hard questions are definitely raised from my practices and it was reassuring to read some stories of fellow educators and their wobbling experiences on Bob Fecho’s site Storri. The first experience that I read was Privileged Expectations, written by a high school English teacher. Before taking on his new high school positions, he described his classroom as rigorous and structured, utilizing a “curriculum menu” as formative and summative assessments, showing mastery of concepts.  His students were engaged and scoring high on standardized tests. When it was time for him to transition intro the high school that is when his wobble occurred. His past students and their parents did not want him. They wanted the “easy A.” I think what caused his wobble was his passion for his idea of the “curriculum menu” and the positive results. But, was it positive for all of his students? Could they demonstrate mastery of the content in a different way? After reaching this wobble, he reflected and changed his outlook. He expressed that he wanted his students to develop skills and necessarily the content. He developed a setting that provided more creativity, freedom and made it more real-world. I can relate to this. As a language teacher I would love for my students to focus on developing skills for more communication, but I feel like I rely heavily on the content. But, isn’t that what I am supposed to be doing?

Another story I read from Storri was It Takes More Than One Victory, written by another English teacher. She writes about a 7th grade student, Liam. She describes him as an “in and out” student. I have A LOT of them. On their good days they are good, sometimes even great! But, on their not so good days, the continuous interruptions cause frustration for me and their classmates. But, when they shine, they truly shine! She writes that her wobble came from his inconsistency to perform in class, which then made her doubt his commitment to the school’s poetry slam that he showed interest in. I, too, am guilty of doubting some of my students. In life, we all make assumptions. But if we are making daily observations of our students, it makes sense to have these assumptions. “Sometimes you just have to hook  students with compliments, encouragement, and faith, and they will pull through. Sometimes.” This is what the English teacher in this story tells us…Liam did it, though. He participated in the poetry slam. He went on to districts and won. He was the youngest winner ever. When we find their interests and provide them with opportunities to shine in their comfort zone, they thrive. In Liam’s case here, he still continued to have his good and bad days. I see this more often than not. For my inconsistent performers, I really, really try to encourage them. And when I do, I can see it on their faces, that it does mean something to them.

I am currently reflecting on my week last week. I feel like I had very different expectations for my students than they were expecting, which caused some wobble..stay tuned!