The beginning of this school year, much like many others, has brought about many changes.
For one, my school corporation has reorganized to combine with another school corporation so that we’re able to receive state funding instead of paying money to the state.
My school has adopted Google Apps for Education (enough said there).
My sweet daughter, Hallie, starts kindergarten, and my youngest, Joel, starts preschool this year. Combined with my second-grader, Cassie, all three will be in some form of schooling this year.
My wife and I have decided to begin sponsoring the junior high/high school Fellowship of Christian Athletes, adding another set of responsibilities to our already overloaded plate.
All that said, despite all the change, I’ve come to appreciate the relative serenity and calm from the storm that is the teacher’s classroom. Corporation changes, state changes and federal mandates may come. But teachers by and large still have a great deal of autonomy in their classes. It’s still just teacher and students, working together side-by-side day by day to learn together.
Speaking of changes, here are some I’m planning to make this year to move my classroom forward.
1. My one word — In a previous blog post, I talked about how creating a one-word mission statement for the entire school year can narrow your teaching focus to produce great results.
This year, I struggled with my one word, but in the end, I came up with the word “create.”
I heard a statistic recently on the Google Educast that said that said:
- one percent of students are creators,
- nine percent of students are curators, and
- 90 percent are consumers of digital content.
I want to boost the creation factor. And what good is creation without sharing? I want my students to create products that matter and to share them with their classmates, their school and the world.
I also want to create more as a teacher, too, by sharing with other teachers, parents, my students and others in the education community.
2. My teacher blog — I also wrote in a previous blog post about the six reasons why I wnated to start a teacher blog. I have now created it and am preparing to publish my first post.
Unfortunately, in the past, I haven’t had the open lines of communication with parents and the school community that I wanted. My hope is that this teacher blog will create new channels of communication that never existed before and will improve the ones that did. Even if these channels are just one-way, that’s OK. One-way communication is better than no communication at all.
3. Remind 101 — This is another attempt to try to improve that communication between myself and parents and students. I’m using Remind 101, a service that securely sends text messages to students and parents — anybody who signs up for the text updates — without anybody having to divulge their cell phone numbers. Communication gets done; privacy is maintained.
I want to use Remind 101 for little reminders like assignment, project and test due dates as well as personal follow-up with students and parents. I’ll be able to send a note when a student has done an outstanding job on a project or shown a special effort, or when they need an extra push to make sure they stay on track. I’m also looking forward to publishing links to my teacher blog on Remind 101 to make connections that are longer than just as short text message.
4. Paperless classroom — The single change that I’ve been most excited about this school year is my school’s implementation of Google Apps for Education.
My classroom has 28 desktop computers, so in essence, when students are in my classroom, we have a 1:1 learning environment. I’ve tried using various means to go paperless, including the MBC Documents inside the My Big Campus learning management system, but nothing has been quite robust enough to fulfill all of my paperless classroom needs.
I believe that I can go paperless with Google Apps for Education. I’m looking forward to:
- fully-digital assignments,
- real-time document collaboration,
- student work in embedded in digital portfolios (more on that later), and
- documents pushed out from myself to students.
The more digital work we can do, the more quickly I can provide feedback to students, the less paper cluttering my classroom and the more meaningful assignments will be.
5. Digital portfolios — I’ve really struggled with the concept of handing papers back to my students for a long time. I hate seeing them give them a cursory glance and then pitch them in the trash on the way out the door. Or seeing stray papers end up on the hallway floor or sticking out of the bottom of lockers.
For a long time, I’ve thought that these assignments that students do for us — worksheets, little paper assignments — are fairly meaningless in the big scheme of things. My goal this year is to help them create some more meaningful assignments and some that can be displayed in a much better way.
This year, we’ll be creating digital portfolios through Live Binders. Students can hold digital assignments and projects in one location on the web. They can display what they’ve created and learned in Spanish to others. And maybe they’ll even add to them from other classes.
Once they have seen how easy it is to embed content from their work in my class onto a central home like Live Binders, maybe they’ll be able to take those skills and use them in other facets of their lives.
I have a lot of work ahead of me! The great thing about it is the motivation factor. I’m so excited about these new changes. I have more energy thinking about them than I have in years of teaching. I can’t wait to see how these changes impact my students and their learning.
Have any advice for me? Is there anything new you’re doing in your classes this year? Leave it all in a comment below!