Phew! As I sit down at 9:20 PM to craft this week’s Friday 4, I can finally put my feet up and breathe a heavy sigh of relief…I made it through the “gauntlet” that is known as the post Thanksgiving/pre winter break stretch of the academic calendar. The students have all scattered to the corners of the state and globe for vacation and the faculty holiday party is in the books. A perfect time to share some of this week’s finds with colleagues!
This time of year is replete with “Top 10” lists and “Best of 2014” posts and articles that afford me a chance to “find” some reads that I might have missed during the year. I actually look forward to these recap articles since during these next few weeks I actually have some time to get lost in reading without feeling that I am avoiding more pressing work. This week’s Friday 4 includes two such lists.
Enjoy the break!
For most educators, this is that crazy time of the year between Thanksgiving break and the winter holiday break. You know the drill…try to balance the desire to get a complete “unit” in before break with the inevitable onslaught of obstacles such as special schedules, holiday events, weather related cancellations of part or all of the school day and the general craziness that surrounds the holidays. If you teach seniors, you can throw in the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the release of early college acceptances.
Regardless of how frenetic the next week or two get for you, you have to remember to take time for yourself and recharge your professional batteries. To that end, I have 4 items this week that may serve as your elixir. I have two neat tools that recently crossed my desk that you may find could add a little pizzazz to your lessons in 2015. Why not spend some time over the winter break playing with a new toy (er, I mean “tool”)? The final two items are more reflective in nature and may help you to focus on the big picture for a bit and not get so caught up in the day to day rat race that teaching can sometimes feel like. Without further ado…
- Have you ever wondered how you or your students could create those snazzy looking infographics that you frequently see in magazines or online? Well, there is a free online tool that can help you or your students actually create your own infographics. Piktochart is a website that will walk you through the steps to create visually appealing presentations that “make information beautiful.” Thanks to my colleague Meg Blunden for sharing this cool tool.
- “Tour Builder is a new way to show people the places you’ve visited and the experiences you had along the way using Google Earth. It lets you pick the locations right on the map, add in photos, text, and video, and then share your creation.” Think “virtual field trip” and you have a sense of what this tool allows you or your students to create. There is a brief video on the site from a history teacher who uses Tour Builder in his classroom that can be seen here.
- Fostering Reflection is a piece from a past issue of Educational Leadership, the professional journal of ASCD that is a good reminder of a frequently omitted aspect of professional learning.
- Golden Rules for Engaging Students in Learning Activities is a piece from the Edutopia website that will allow you to put your “reflective hat” on after the last article and put it to use. 😉
Every educator’s pre-Thanksgiving day ritual should include some head-scratching, thought-provoking reading about the craft of teaching to counterbalance any exam correcting that may also be on the docket. It is my hope that this week’s Friday 4 can serve that purpose for you.
I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends and that you find some time to peruse a few of this week’s items. Enjoy!
For students and teachers, the month of November is a time of transition. The fall term is winding down which, for many of us, means that our students are preparing for exams and we are all eagerly looking forward to a well-deserved break that comes with the Thanksgiving holiday. To celebrate the end of fall, this week’s edition of the Friday Four features 2 items that all teachers can use with their students to help them be more reflective about the past term and to best prepare for any upcoming exams. With the prospect of a bit of down time on the horizon, I have also included 2 items for you to ponder over the mini break; one is a podcast interview with Elizabeth Green, the author of “Building a Better Teacher”, and the other is a call for proposals for an upcoming CAIS event.
- Prompts to Help Students Reflect on How They Approach Learning is a piece that comes from the Faculty Focus website. The article provides many good prompts that can be used with students as they finish up the fall term to encourage them to be more metacognitive about their own learning.
- Making it stick is a podcast of an interview with one of the authors of the book “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning”. Students would be well served to employ several of the techniques mentioned in the podcast as they prepare for their upcoming final exams, and we should be sharing these tips with them.
- What teachers need is another podcast from American RadioWorks that features Elizabeth Green. You will recognize Green from the New Yorker article that I included in last week’s Friday Four.
- The CAIS (Connecticut Association of Independent Schools) is holding the annual “Teachers Helping Teachers” workshop on January 29 and is now accepting proposals. This workshop is a popular event every year and is a wonderful opportunity to learn something new or to share something with fellow colleagues. I encourage you to take a look at the sessions that were offered in January 2014 and submit a proposal for a session for this year.
Not surprisingly given my role at Loomis Chaffee, I see and read a large number of articles, blog posts and books on the subject of professional development. I have a somewhat random mix of items this week that all have the theme of professional development running through them. I encourage you to read the pieces and then take the more important next step, namely, to take charge of your own professional development and commit to doing something that will foster your own grow as an educator.
Enjoy. As always, I welcome and appreciate your feedback…good and bad!
Looking to add some new tools to your teaching toolbox? This week’s Friday 4 will highlight a few relatively new technology related tools that are fairly easy to learn and use that have the potential to significantly change the teaching and learning that is going on in and out of your classroom. I encourage you to take the plunge and try using one or more of these tools in your classroom in the next couple of weeks.
- Socrative is a web-based student response system that is similar to “clickers” in functionality that can be used on a computer, a tablet or a smart-phone. “Through the use of real time questioning, instant result aggregation and visualization, teachers can gauge the whole class’ current level of understanding.” A Complete Guide for Teachers on How to Use Socrative is a great place to start if you have never seen or used Socrative.
- If you are a user of Google forms in class, there was some big news recently having to do with the release of new add-ons for Google forms that add some really neat functionality to forms. If you are a user of Google forms, check out this post from the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website that describes a few of the add-ons that educators will find useful.
- Ever wish you could easily create an interactive multimedia collage for a topic you are teaching, or better yet, have your students demonstrate their understanding by creating a dynamic presentation? Well, now you can! Check out this post from the Free Technology for Teachers website that is run by Richard Byrne @rmbyrne.
- My personal favorite new tool that I have added to my teaching toolbox has to be Edpuzzle (@EDpuzzle). With Edpuzzle, you can take any video (your own or one from YouTube or several other sites) and make it your lesson by trimming it, annotating it or embedding questions that the student have to answer right into the video. As a flipped classroom teacher, it has been awesome to be able to add questions that allow the students to check for their own understanding right into the videos at the exact moment that I want. Here is a wonderful blog post by a fellow teacher that explain how to get started. Even if you do not use a flipped classroom, this tool could turn some of the videos you like to show into richer lessons.
I have been pleasantly surprised and pleased with all of the neurobiology related pieces that have hit my radar screen of late. The research, much of which has existed for quite some time now, is finally making it into the mainstream discussions about teaching and learning. My hope is that people will not only read the articles and ponder their implications; but more importantly, they will actively think about how they can change or modify what they are actually doing in the classroom in order to incorporate some of the things we now know about how students learn.
I certainly have changed quite a few things in my own classroom as a result of all that I have learned about how students learn from the current and not so current research. Change is uncomfortable, but if we are to best serve our students, we have to willing to question and rethink everything we do as new information and research becomes available.
So, here are just a few of the brain-related items that I came across this week. I encourage you to read them and then engage in a discussion about one or more of the pieces with a colleague or two.
It has been a busy week filled with videotaping colleagues in the classroom, attending a CAIS conference on Experiential Learning in the Science Classroom and participating in several Connected Educator Month events online. I ran across a bunch of interesting items during the week that do not really fit into a single theme so I am not going to try and pretend that they do. Here are a few…
This October marks the third annual Connected Educator Month. “Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, CEM offers highly distributed, diverse, and engaging activities to educators at all levels.” Information about the program and a full calendar of events can be found on the CEM homepage. There is literally something for every teacher who is looking to continue his/her own professional learning and become a more connected educator. Some examples of events in the coming week alone include:
- Sunday 10/5 at 8 PM EST Workshop: Beginners Guide to Becoming a Connected Educator.
- Monday 10/6 at 4 PM EST Using Educational Technology in the Classroom.
- Tuesday 10/7 at 8 PM EST Weekly Task Talk with Illustrative Mathematics
- Wednesday 10/8 at 8 PM EST New Teacher Chat on Twitter #ntchat
- Thursday 10/9 at 6 PM EST Twitterchat #whatisschool an interactive chat about education around the world
- Friday 10/10 at 8 AM EST New Frontiers in Assessment Discussion
I encourage you to, at the very least, take a look at the calendar of events and commit to participating in at least one event during the month of October. Now on to the Friday 4 Finds of the week…
The beginning of the fall term is by far the best part of the school year as far as I am concerned. The school year is still fresh and full of optimistic anticipation of transformative learning and “AHA!” moments. The students are not too tired yet, they come to class with their homework completed and they are eager to engage in the lesson for the day. I love September!
I did not post a Friday 4 last week as I was rolling out an ambitious Professional Learning Plan with the faculty at The Loomis Chaffee School and got busy with that. If you are interested in the plan, you can see the document here. I would love to hear any feedback you might have on the plan or suggestions for additional items that could be added that you do at your school.
This week’s interesting finds:
Enjoy and have a wonderful end to your September!