Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Reflections Upon a New Year!

January, for an educator, brings a new school semester and a time for reflection on the past semester. As we embark upon each new semester our reflections often lead to some of these questions:
  • What do my students need to learn better?
  • What can I do in the classroom to make the learning more fun? More engaging?
  • How can I ensure my students are learning the objectives and standards (standards)? 
  • What can my students do to show me they are learning (assessment)?
  • What can I do better (personal reflection)? 
As I reflect on the past semester and the learning in my classroom I am filled with awe.  I can't believe the journey of the past 4 1/2 months.  I've had several people comment, "You are doing some amazing things in your classroom. How did you get started using technology?" First, let's just clear this all up.  They are right, my students are doing some amazing things.  Second, any motivation or dedication can NOT be credited to me but my heavenly Father who gives me the resources and time to help wonderful 4th grade students during the school year.  Each student in my classroom is truly unique and I love them.

District Application
Through a district funded application process, I received a big screen TV, Apple TV and 22 iPads. I also use a teacher MacBook and a Justand in my classroom. I learned about a Justand last school year when one of our teachers ordered one during her application process. Other teachers in our building were oohing and awing over it.  

How did we get started with technology?
We started with professional development. In the summer and fall we took advantage of several professional development opportunities listed below and read a lot of blogs.
4. District training

Tech Lunch
Next, our school team set up bimonthly meetings for the 2013-2014 school year (during our lunch time). We named it our Tech Lunch. These meetings were designed to discuss new ideas, what is working, and what should be improved. Planning an iPad Parent Night was our first mission.  We did not want to give parents the impression that we were going to be playing Angry Birds with our new technology. (Don't get me wrong, I love Angry Birds, and have used it in the past for motivation.  You would be amazed what we can accomplish in 30 minutes to earn a 1 minute game reward.) The parent night was designed to show our parents the amazing things our students could create while they were learning in our classrooms.  We also wanted to give the parents a rational for using the iPads.

Grade Level Collaboration
In addition to our school team, we met with grade level teams to collaborate and discuss how to incorporate technology into our current curriculum.  Our discussions focused around student learning and not the technology.  Sometimes our lesson plans include using technology and sometimes they do not.  I will be posting soon about how to incorporate technology into daily lessons.  

The Journey
Although we began our voyage thinking about what iPad apps we would use to help our students learn, I have been amazed at where the journey is leading us. Every time I think I am getting my "suitcase unpacked" on a specific lesson, we are speeding down the hill to our next adventure.  The beautiful view of student learning is a truly wonderful site to see.

Our class began the year creating graphic organizers using specific iPad apps...four months later we are:
  • Creating graphic organizers
  • Surveying people all over the world
  • Creating our own iMovies about topics like the water cycle  
  • Collaborating via the internet with other schools in our district
  • Using Maps and video conferencing tools to locate and talk to another classroom in Vermont (and other states)
  • Holding book clubs with classrooms in other states (Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Arkansas)
  • Tweeting math problems back and forth with a classroom in South Dakota
I know I've said it before, but the possibilities brought to our classrooms by technology are truly endless.  

I continue to be awed by the wonderful teachers I have met along the journey that have given me suggestions and advice.  Speaking to teachers around the world was not even a thought in my mind 4 months ago. It truly is a small world.

Finally, I must end by telling you a short story.  Because of Christmas break and winter weather I have not seen my students in almost 3 weeks.  Last night at a basketball game one of my students came over and sat down by me.  During the conversation I asked him if he was ready to go back to school.  He kind of shrugged and grinned real big (not wanting to be uncool by admitting he was ready).  As the conversation continued my sister asked him if he was ready to work.  
I turned to him and asked, "Do we work?" 
He said, "Sometimes, but mostly we just have fun."

Wow! You see, learning can be fun.  

Back to the reflecting...

In 2014 I want to discover new ways for my students to master all the objectives and standards.
In 2014 I want to discover new ways to reach those high expectations.
In 2014 I want to discover new ways to measure my students' learning.
In 2014 I want to ensure I'm improving and helping my students become greater readers, mathematicians, scientists...

In 2014 I want every student leaving my 4th grade class not only mastering objectives and standards but THINKING..."we just have fun".

This is my New Year's Resolution!

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