Instructional Innovations

MCHS Newsletter: Week of September 14

Are You a 21st Century Teacher?

Nebraska, 1996: I sat in front of a large Apple computer in the Media Center of my high school and for the first time I entered the interweb, the internet, the holy grail of technology. It was painfully slow. I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up shutting down the computer and subsequently my online research of Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I'd stick to the Spark Notes book my teacher had.

I'd like to think my initial experiences with technology were fairly universal. We always ran a bit behind the times in rural Nebraska, but I think a lot of my counterparts graduating from high school and/or attending college in the Nineties can probably share similar stories or at least our love of grunge music.

Enter 2015: my how time has flown! Now we are in an era where technology has crept into every aspect of our lives. I read most of my literature on a tablet. I download articles for research. I check and answer emails on my SmartPhone. I never get lost because of Google Maps. Due to technology, life has become a whole lot easier and a whole lot more complicated at the same time. As you read this, I'm sure you're conjuring up your own feelings on technology. Like it or hate it: it's here and our students consume it daily on massive levels. I would argue that to be a truly effective teacher in the school year 2015-2016, you have to give in a bit to the technology craze.

Top 4 Tips to Become a 21st Century Teacher (my own wacky version)

1. Go digital.

I'm serious about this; I don't mean incorporate one way to use an app in your classroom, I mean go COMPLETELY digital (or at least work toward it). Figure out how to decrease your carbon footprint (the ice caps are melting for goodness sakes) and put everything in digital form. Use tools like Google Classroom and Edmodo to help you facilitate this endeavor.

2. Create your own digital footprint.

In order to understand the incorporation of technology in your students lives, you have to learn it as well--and I don't mean use Facebook. Connect with other teachers across the country on blogs--read blogs by astute individuals whose intelligence far surpasses mine--I like Alan Singer of Huffington Post. Read online journals in your content area when you have a few spare moments (I promise you will if you get off know who you are).

3. Listen to your students.

Ask them which apps they're using. Ask them what kind of activities they like to partake in online. Use this data to create lessons that engage their curiosity and use their prior knowledge of technology. Talking to kids about technology can be a fun way to build relationships while also covertly finding tools for total mind manipulation--ok, or for teaching your content.

4. Capitalize on the Smart Phone.

Most of our students have Smart Phones now. It's a priority for them--a status symbol. Please don't freak out on me know, but let them use them in class. Yep, I said it. Have students download free apps that address your content and let them use these apps in your classroom. Ask them tough questions and let them find the answers using search engines. Use this as an opportunity to teach good versus bad sources. To keep students from Facebook, Snapchat and other evil social media sites, ask students to leave their phones upside down on their desks when not using them or ask them to put them away.

I've given you a brief rundown of how to become more of a 21st-century teacher. I know that some of you are so advanced that you're already venturing into the 22nd century; however, for those of us (myself included) who need to get hip to the groove, step away from the PowerPoint on the SmartBoard and embrace student-centered learning using the tools of technology. You'll not only increase student achievement, but you'll also increase the ever elusive student engagement.

Students Use Technology to Teach One Another

Check out Edutopia's video titled "Collaborative Digital Presentations Enrich Projects" to find some ideas for incorporate technology in your classroom including using Google Tools.
Collaborative Digital Presentations Enrich Projects (Tech2Learn Series)

Caught in the Act...

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This week's "Caught in the Act" teacher is Mrs. Latana Coile. Mrs. Coile has been teaching for thirty years with sixteen of them here at MCHS; she has been a teacher of the year and the STAR teacher of the year multiple times. She is a wealth of incredible educational knowledge, not only in her content but in other topics like classroom management and data teams. She is currently a candidate for her Ed.D. working on a dissertation about data teams. MCHS is lucky to have an incredible resource in our building.

When I visited Mrs. Coile's US History classroom she was utilizing station teaching as students explored the American Revolution. Most of us know that stations are a great instructional tool to help students interact with material. What I thought was particularly great about Mrs. Coile's lesson was the thought that went into it. Here are the highlights:

1. She had a clear protocol. Students knew what to do as they moved from station to station. Each station had a folder with specific directions. Mrs. Coile also moved around the classroom to help facilitate student engagement in each station. When students finished a station, they worked on an EOC prep packet, which gave no student an excuse to be idle.

2. All students were engaged--even that one (you know that one we all have). As I've said before, Coile is great with classroom management. She had one student this particular day who didn't want to work. She struck a deal that he could wear his headphones if he did the stations. When he didn't hold up to his end of the deal, she held him accountable and made him take his headphones off. Guess what happened next? The student began to work.

3. She played on Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. One station asked students to view a painting and critique it using guided questions. Another station--this was so cool--had students read a "Choose Your Own Adventure" like book about the American Revolution. Each choice led to a different path. Students made three choices before finishing the entire task. I liked this because it really put the students back into that era and made them think about what they really would have done if presented with some of the challenges that were actually presented historically.

If you haven't had a chance to observe Mrs. Coile in action, you should take the time--especially those of you who are new. The best thing about Mrs. Coile is her willingness to help other teachers out on their own journeys to become better teachers; her door is always open to anyone looking for educational advice.

On Another Note...Pear Deck

The Social Studies department, with Jeff Davis at the lead, explored Pear Deck in Google Tools this week. Dr. Crouse use it in his World History Honors class to share a PowerPoint with his students. The best part of this slide sharing app is that you can embed questions into it, so students can learn a bit then answer questions about their learning. Students loved it as one remarked, " I really like this because I get involved with the lecture." I'm sure there's more to this resource than I've described, so you should check it out for yourself. :)

Got An App for That?

Friday, Sep. 18th, 8am-3pm

PLC Room (former Media Center in the old wing)

If you're interested in learning more about how you might incorporate technology in your classroom, come join us for professional development on Friday, September 18th. We'll be reviewing different ways to incorporate technology into instruction, specifically formative assessment uses, by using specific free tools like Plicker.

RSVPs are enabled for this event.

Just for Fun: A Little Throwback for All My Fellow Nineties People

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Melissa Conway, ISL

Please contact me if you have any suggestions for the newsletter or any ideas for topics you'd like to see explored either in the newsletter or in a professional development series.