Sunday, March 15, 2015

Delicious History

8th graders turned in their trench projects last Friday!  They were fantastic, and I had to share some of them below.  I photographed some of the trenches because they were EDIBLE!  Many students built trenches out of  baked goods (cake, brownies, rice krispee treats).  I'm sure it was fun to build.  Here is a look at a few below:

Others were permanent structures.  Some very high quality work went into the production of some of these projects!  Take a look for yourself!

I shot a quick YouTube video of one of the projects.  Here's a tour:

More to come as I get pictures taken.  A few students are finishing up still.  Overall I am very pleased with the work and effort put in by so many students!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Laying New Foundations

I'm doing some work on the down-low, trying to figure out just exactly how I can nudge my district into the future.

It's going to be tough, because I know that embracing new things is not always something people want to do.  But I have begun to make some progress.  People are beginning to listen.  Having a conversation is the first step.

While I am not applauding myself (because it really didn't take a whole lot of work), my district is once again on Facebook and Twitter.  Not groundbreaking stuff, but it is a start.  Our webpage got a bit of a makeover, which I am patting myself on the back a little bit for.  Nothing huge has been done (yet), but I think it is at least presentable now.  Here's some of my work to this point:

My District's Webpage

Pleasant Valley on Twitter

Pleasant Valley on Facebook

This stuff is little league compared to what I want to do.  We already use (sort of) Google Apps for Education.  By that I mean it is set up in our district.  We use Gmail.  The other major apps (Drive, Docs, Forms, Calendar, and Chrome) are not used across the board.  In addition, very few people use any other apps or online learning platforms to improve instruction.  There's pockets of use in places, but I want to work to streamline, revolutionize, and automate where possible.

I began to put my thoughts down into a prezi.  I did that because you can just throw a bunch of stuff on a screen and drag it around.  Here is my thought process as I am working on how to bring Pleasant Valley into the future:

Scroll around, there's no path set yet!

I think our district needs to take part in some of the new ideas when it comes to teaching, learning, and professional development.  There is so much out there at our fingertips if we'd just go and get it.  There are so many people that we can learn from and who can learn from us.  Synergy is a buzzword, but in this case it is what would happen if we decided to plug into the rest of the world instead of trying to do everything in-house, from scratch.

Since Gmail is to a point ingrained in our staff, I think the next thing to do is to branch out into a few more Google Apps.  I have tabbed Drive, Calendar, and Chrome to come next.  We are still hosting some of our files locally.  Others are stored in massive drive partitions in the cloud or who knows where.  Some of our storage resembles a library that has been hit by a tornado, then a hurricane, and then was left to sit for a couple of millennium.  That's no way to do things.

This is a personal preference, but Internet Explorer drives me nuts.  Chrome works so well with the Apps at our disposal that it seems silly not to make a switch to it in all places.  Most people won't notice the difference, and those that do will hopefully see the benefit.

With ideas like the flipped classroom and gamification, the more collaborative nature of the world and workplace, and the increasing expectations of students, we cannot be left behind to teach children for twenty years from now like it was twenty years ago.  Going Google and allowing the flow of instruction, resources, and communication to be continuous is the way to do it.  My district is not in a position (logistically or in terms of our student population) to go 1:1.  Our mobility would make it a nightmare.  But we could do it in terms of the school day.  We are small enough to eventually arm students with technology all day long.  We could provide the help that some will need by giving extra access before and after school.  We should not allow our students to be "off the grid" for very long.  

It would also be a great way to build partnerships with parents.  Most of the apps and technologies that could be used have a parent component or provide special access for parents.  The lines of communication could be opened in so many ways, and better yet, remain open.  By teaching our students how to use new things, we could ask that they share it with their families.  Over time we may be able to start putting parts of our instruction into overrdrive as school never stops.  We can access the hours between 3 PM and 8 AM the next day.  We can become more of a presence in our students' lives.

I think I have gotten the ball rolling (finally).  Some of what I just said I have been saying for years.  People have heard me, but no one was listening.  Then I got saddled with a Professional Growth Plan (thanks again).  I'm guilty of forgetting the finer points of running my classroom at times when I get excited about this kind of work.  I'm starting to think this is what I should be doing.  I'm hoping the people that make decisions in my district agree and let me loose.  

I want the challenges this will bring with it.  I want to help teachers and students.  I want to teach those that teach how they could do things they didn't think possible.  Technology is not an accessory anymore.  It's a way of life, and our students are people who have never lived a different way.

It's time to make some waves.  Man I am good at that.  People are probably sick of me.