Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Podcast Interview with Troy Cockrum

Just wanted to take a quick moment and share this podcast for the Flipped Learning Network and EdReach. I was interviewed by Troy Cockrum, another English flipper. We discuss aspects of flipping in the HS English Classroom and discussed how to engage students in effective peer editing.

My area was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and I will write more and post later. In short, I'd like to thank Troy for this opportunity!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Remote Desktop Just a Tab Away

When at home I use the Remote Desktop Connection to access the remote servers at school for all the curricular content I've created over the years. Remote Desktop has been invaluable especially when I have to call out unexpectedly and need to create sub plans (ah, the life of a mom) or when I want to tweak lessons at home, and now Remote Desktop-ing is even easier by adding the AccessNow RDP Client by Ericom to my Chrome browser. Now I can access the server within a Chrome window and do not have to go through the Window's menu. You too can do this even if you do not use Chrome because it will work in any HTML supporter browser.

How it Works

While I am tech savvy, I have no idea about the technical terminology of how/why this works. I liken this to driving a car: I am a very safe (yet lead-footed) driver, but I have not the vaguest inclination as to how/why my vehicle runs or how to fix it. So, I will let the experts show you:

I do know this: in order to access your school's servers, you must have the information from your tech department. 

Access Anywhere

One of my favorite things about Chrome is the ability to have my bookmarks wherever I sign in to Chrome. I can now access the Remote Desktop on any computer that has Chrome. So I shared this information with other teachers at my school and here was one reply email. For you iPad users, this is good news too: the Ericom AccessNow works on your iPad! Can it get any better?!

By the way to make the above screenshot, I...

  1. Opened a new tab, 
  2. Used the Ericom AccessNow app to open my school Outlook email on the remote server, 
  3. Then hit printscreen (my laptop at home is old and doesn't have that cool clipper tool), 
  4. Pasted the screenshot into MS Paint (on the laptop, not the remote server)
  5. Cropped, edited as needed, and saved.


It is so nice to not have to go through the Windows main menu and have that top bar appear (and always be in the way!) and be able to move easily between tabs. Also, when I use the Windows main menu to connect to the remote server, I can't copy/paste from the remote view to the home view, and for someone who loves making her own clipart with printscreen and Paint, this is a problem!

As an additional bonus with Chrome, I can minimize the browser windows and have a nice split screen between the remote desktop and my home laptop.

I might not be able to explain exactly when I need to use the splitscreen capability other than for creating more resources for class, but nonetheless, it is convenient to have when I will want to use it.

The AccessNow RDP Client by Ericom delivers accessibility, efficiency and convenience  for productivity whether at home or anywhere on the road. Find it in the Chrome Web Store.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Capturing Classroom Videos


Using the FREE and super easy Screencast O Matic web tool and a $25 headset, I've started to create videos that will supplement my explanation of concepts studied in class. I haven't really used videos all the much for flipping my classes because of accessibility and inequity with technology in the classroom, but now that those issues are close to being resolved, I am very interested in learning how to  to add videos to my bag of tricks.

This is a 15 minute video that I created which explains elements of an adapted version of "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe. I just made this video today during the 2nd half of my prep period in one take. I had the document previously created, and I recorded myself discussing the text. Students don't have a copy of my answer sheet, but now they can use the video to make sure their pages are complete.

For one of my students on homebound instruction, I created a personalized screencast to show her how to navigate Edmodo and answer some of her questions. As I always tell my writers, showing is much more effective than telling. Now I can show them showing is more effective!

For our study of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, I opened the book using the Kindle Cloud Reader and recorded myself discussing elements of Chapter 1.  Students then completed various tasks reviewing Chapter 1 and viewed the screencasts prior to taking a quiz. Many students stated that they preferred the screencasts to a live lecture because they could control the pace. As a delivery method for information, the screencast is efficient, and using Screencast-O-Matic, I was able to create the video in under about 20 minutes taking into account the time for uploading to Youtube.


And while this isn't a screencast, I used my android cellphone to record a quick video of students reviewing the site No Red Ink. Students were using No Red Ink for the first time and since they were really enjoying using the site for grammar instruction, I captured their responses. Using cellphone video recorders are an easy way for students to do book reports, show group work in process, or record a group discussion.

And for something REALLY COOL, Karl Lindgren-Streicher, a 9/10 world hisotry teacher in San Mateo, CA used his iPhone and a time lapse app to create a video showing a day in his class.

Whether for information delivery or capturing the moment, video production in the classroom can be as easy as using a screencasting or smartphone app. If you have any tips, tricks or feedback for making videos and using them for supplemental purposes, please share your ideas and examples.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Heroes & Big Huge Labs (I'm not talking about Brody)

Both my 9th grade Honors students and my one section of 12th grade general-level students start the year off studying the Hero's Journey concept and connect it to literature. The freshmen work with their summer reading books (The Hobbit  by J.R.R. Tolkien and Abarat by Clive Barker) and the seniors apply the concept to Beowulf. For both sets of students, they are at the cusp of a new beginning: the freshmen need to be called to action and learn how to think for themselves, and the seniors need to be pushed into thinking about being out in the abyss of the real world beyond the school.

For independent reading, two weeks ago, I assigned my 9th grade Honors students the novel Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey and the seniors Grendel by John Gardner. For the freshmen, I posted resources to facilitate their understanding of the novel on Edmodo and stated that there will be a Hero's Journey Unit Test that will assess students' understanding of the Hero's Journey concept and their application of the concept to the two summer reading novels and Dragonsong.  I told the students, "Do what you know to do when reading a novel.  All your past and present English teachers have modeled how to study a novel. Now this is your call to adventure to show that you know how to apply the same process." That's it. I got the usual questions...

"What will be on the test?" 
         "What do I write down?"
"Will you be collecting the stuff that is on Edmodo?"
       "Will you be grading this?"

Essentially, they wanted to play the game of school:  do what the teacher tells the students to do.  They wanted to be lead instead of becoming leaders.  I refused to give in. Any student question was answered with an additional question.

I wasn't as tortuous for the seniors. I gave them a handout on paper with questions organized by topic (setting, theme, character, etc) instead of by chapter and told them they had 12 days to finish the novel (essentially a chapter a day). Trying to sound like a college professor, I said, "Get it done. Period."

I did want to check on the students and make sure that they were reading, but I didn't want to do it in the traditional manner (despite giving a traditional test later) and just give a quiz assessing reading comprehension, and I did want to use higher-level thinking skills without it turning into a huge project. So, when introduced to Big Huge Labs in my MAIT class, I thought, "Ah-ha! This is how I will check and get students to synthesize!"

Big Huge Labs has nothing to do with dogs (as far as I know) or my therapy dog, Brody, but it is a FREE, useful site for creating quick digital projects. More like a personal photography laboratory, users can upload pictures to create motivational posters, trading cards, magazine covers, mosaics  and just about any photo-based project. Assessments for reading do not necessarily need to be a "Gotcha" traditional quiz that assesses comprehension. Quick digital projects such as these will show whether students have "gotten it."

For grading, students could do peer assessment using a checklist and OSU rubric or the teacher could assess using the OSU rubric, evaluating the use of the text, the choice of image, and the overall presentation of the card or motivational poster.    

The freshmen were assigned to create trading cards based on the characters in Dragonsong and the seniors created a motivational poster for either "Beowulf" or Grendel.  Students doing a keyword Google Image search found relevant pictures, pulled information from the text and synthesized it into the trading card or motivational poster as applicable.

Comparing two cards on the same character, I know one paid more attention than the other while reading. I also can guess based on the character chosen and the description how far the student read into the text.

This one above has spelling errors and a poor choice in the picture.

The not-so academic seniors made some phenomenal and easy posters on "Beowulf" and Grendel. Students were able to quickly and adeptly show they understood concepts in the two stories. Students can customize the colors, fonts, and borders of the text and picture.  Notice, that while two students used the same picture, the feel of the end product is unique to each. This project can also provide a quick glimmer into the personality of the student with the choices he/she makes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The War on Writing Without Red Pens: Winning?

"The conditions of conquest are always easy. We have but to toil awhile, endure awhile, believe always, and never turn back." - Marcus Annaeus Seneca

I've been struggling with the logistics and assessment of student writing for my entire academic career and I'm not using hyperbole (again). I've written about peer editing and I know that works to help improve students' writing, but when it comes to the teacher putting a grade on the paper, I have issues.  I have never been satisfied with any rubric, checklist, or method.  Red penning the essay until it bleeds doesn't improve the writing on the next assignment because it is the teacher telling the student what is wrong, it isn't the student taking responsibility for crafting what is written on the page.  Red penning is a one-sided battle: the teacher has conquered and the student is caught in friendly fire.

I know, students could write draft after draft, revise until hands fall off, but where is the time for that? Unless I am teaching a writing class to 5 students, I will not be able to effectively balance all the curricular demands at the high school level with 150 students under my charge and get them to where they need to be as writers. And on a philosophical point, I have issues with putting grades on students' writing. I can use rubrics, but it feels so forced and formulaic (uh yeah, like those 5 paragraph essays...). I hear the science folks chiming in, "But formulas work!"  Yeah, they do: formulas are good for getting started and modeling. I'm no Heidi Klum, but I've modeled some formulas on my RUNWAY- A. But, I want to get off the runway!  I want writing to take flight! (How many metaphors & allusions did I just mix? OH NO! Don't take off points!)

Speaking of points, teachers and students all know what happens when the grade is plastered to the top of the page: the students stop writing; the paper is thrown in a folder rarely to be looked at again. I could use portfolios and have students present their best work at the end of the marking period.  But you want to know why/how most of those pieces got picked for the portfolio, I bet you can't guess....  oh, that is right....  the ones that got the highest grade from the teacher and needed the least amount of tweaking. Who is being responsible for the writing? And how to grade those portfolios?  I could instead assess them on their presentation of the portfolio as a way to test public speaking, but the writing wouldn't be the focus.

Having students revise, revise, revise is a wonderful ideal, I can't get passed this question: If students didn't KNOW how to write well the first time, how are they going to KNOW how to make it better? We know red penning doesn't work.  Students need to do more than revise, aka fix, the grammar errors. I want them to get into the meat of the ideas of the writing, and cook up a good meal, but that takes TIME and DESIRE to develop and craft, and in this current educational and societal climate, there are too many "more important" things to tackle. Writing for the sake of good writing just isn't happening unless one is a writer.

I sound worse than Grendel on one of his existential nihilism rants in this blog post, and my intention is not to whine and lament the death of intrinsically motivated writing. So let me get to my latest idea (oh here we go again...).

For the first marking period my one section of seniors focused on the concepts of heroism, bravery, and honor. After reading "Beowulf" and Grendel and learning the Hero's Journey pattern, I asked my not very academic senior students to write a personal essay on their own hero's journey.

Essentially, I asked them, "What do you want to be when you grown up and how have your past challenges prepared you for the future challenges you will face to attain your goal? How can you become a "hero" in your own life?" They had two weeks to write it, and I made it clear that they SHOULD be writing a little everyday, but most waited until 3 days before the due date to start it. Most confessed that they had a hard time writing about this topic and didn't know how to start, but I rebutted, "If YOU can't write about YOURSELF, who will?  Shouldn't this be the easiest topic to write about since no one knows you as well as you? Graduation is just 9 months away, shouldn't you have an idea of where you will go after graduation?" They like the idea of graduation, but not the reality and uncertain-ness to follow.

I collected the personal hero journey essays on Friday, and I had a feeling this would happen: the essays are horrible. Poorly written. Bland. Generic. Boring. Lots of telling, no showing. Ugh. Now, I could use that 100 point rubric stuffed somewhere in my files and I could red pen them to death and put equally horrible grades on the paper, but what purpose will that serve? The students will just get more negative reinforcement that they can't write well. I have a feeling that they couldn't write about themselves as heroes because most of them do not see themselves as heroes. And while they won't slay a dragon to save their kingdom, they can be heroric in their own right and slay metaphorical dragons in real life.

But in each essay, I did see something: a small glimmer, a hidden seed that could, with some nurturing, flower. So instead, I thought that instead of writing a letter or percentage grade on the paper, what if I pointed out some suggestions and highlighted the best part of the essay (the glimmer, seed) and wrote one motivational word or phrase (EMERGE, CAN DO, SYNC) on the top as a grade? The motivational word can't be transferred into the grade book, and I don't want it to. The grade on a piece of writing does more than harm than good. If writing is a process, shouldn't the revision and evaluation of the writing also be a process? Putting a magical motivational word on top isn't going to suddenly cause a writing epiphany for the students, but if the word could encourage them towards action, and if the word could trigger a positive response, then it could be one part of the overall process.

I don't want to give these students what they've always gotten. We'll see what the student reactions will be... they may or may not like it. Things are going to change and I want to show them that even though our time is running out, they still have the ability to grow in the time we have left. "Good enough" is not good enough anymore, and really, what will grades really matter after graduation? (And what do grades matter before graduation???)   I want them to learn some intrinsic motivation because no one will be there to push them in the real world. Writing doesn't have to hurt! Writing is not a battle!

Next marking period, we are reading Canterbury Tales by Chaucer and, while this group of seniors will most likely not become professional literary scholars, the concept of story-telling is relevant. What makes a good story? How are good stories told? What is their good story? The seniors will be revising those personal hero journeys into a personal story. Take that seed and nurture it.

“There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can't move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.” ― Robert Frost

***** ********  *******   ********

Update: 10/25/12

This video has been floating around on Twitter this week and Seth Godin articulates eloquently much of what I base my own teaching philosophy on:  connecting the dots, not collecting the dots. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Digital Citizenship & Data Collection

With all this use of technology and the notion that prospective employers and college admissions officers are researching applicants, students should learn how to be responsible digital citizens and consider the effects of their digital footprints. Are students stomping through the online world, tip-toeing delicately, or dancing madly through the streets a la Mardi Gras?

This topic came up in last night's #engchat on Twitter about college admissions essays. Students tracking their digital footprint could make for a horrifying or surprising project and very relevant in this world where social media puts one's actions on full display.

In thinking about Wordle for analyzing texts, students could complete similar steps for social network aggregation and create a word cloud of their Twitter tweets and blog posts by using Tagxedo or copy/pasting FaceBook status updates into Wordle.

The Process:

  1. Students would go to and enter in their Twitter handle. Tagxedo collects the tweets and creates the word cloud. Students can adjust the shape, color, font, and layout of the word cloud to create a desired effect. Students could also use a social network aggregator or copy-paste the statuses and tweets into Wordle and create a word cloud.
  2. Students would analyze the word clouds and write a reflection journal entry. Is this an accurate portrayal of the student? 
  3. The teacher could share with the class the word clouds (without the owner's name) and have the class infer and make judgments about the owner of the Wordle.
  4. The class could discuss ways to "clean up" profiles and how to market one's self appropriately on social media. Brainpop offers a site where users can take online quizzes on various digital topics and teachers can access additional lesson plans on digital citizenship.

This project requires some honesty and openness to not leave out "scandalous" posts. The point is to see the messiness and the nefariousness of social networking to open students' eyes to how other's perceive their actions on the web: Enlightenment should then lead to personal growth and improvement.


Students can be graded on the completion of the process, the journal writing, and discussion participation using the OSU rubric. The epiphany and final outcome is more important than the grade. I'm actually reluctant to grade an assignment such as this because the formative process is much more valuable for the students' learning than a summative grade.


This word cloud was created on Tagxedo using my blog posts.  It is obvious what I write most about!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Easy as Fish in a Barrel: Structured Socratic Discussions

Having all students involved in a focused class discussion instead of being prompted and lead by the teacher, requires all students to be invested in the process. When the discussion is structured so that all students are vested in the process, students can use critical thinking to practice crafting and supporting arguments.

In this video posted on EdutopiaKIPP King Collegiate High School teachers learn to facilitate fishbowl discussions to promote the Socratic process in class.Using a critical thinking model, the teacher serves as a facilitator of the discussion and orchestrator of the activity. While this isn't a new technique, there are key components mentioned in the video that are applicable for any classroom.

The Socratic Seminar or fishbowl discussion begins with the layout of the classroom and the assigning of roles to students. The classroom is set up with an inner square of about 12 desks, surrounded by an outer square of 12-14 desks.  Students sitting in the inner square are discussing, debating, and arguing the specific topic as they reference texts, use analytic language, connect to other statements made, and agree or disagree with the other participants. Students sitting in the outer square evaluate the participants in the discussion by being assigned a specific role: reporter, silent contributor, and shadow-er.

The video does not explain in great detail the exact tasks each role plays. Generally, the reporter "reports" on the action of the discussion (provides a report after or during the discussion?); the silent contributor participates in the discussion as if he/she were in the middle, but is not allowed to speak until the conversation has ended; and the shadow-er is directly assigned a student in the inner square to evaluate on specific and multiple points.I would think it is awkward for the silent contributor to contribute at the end of the discussion-- although both the reporter and silent contributor would provide an opportunity for reviewing the discussion overall.  The silent contributor would also have to be a student who has self-control, something many students need practice one. The shadower would be the most assigned role by pairing up students in both the inner and outer squares.

Why I like this...
Students need structure: The classroom set up promotes the discussion and puts students on the spot and the specific roles keep everyone involved. The roles are different from the ones I've seen before and I can see practical application-- my favorite being the shadow-er. I also like that it is another opportunity for peer review/evaluation and that the students are taking responsibility for the discussion instead of listening to the teacher lecturing. I also like that this activity promotes face to face conversation--something modern students need to practice since they like having their faces glued to a computer or cell phone screen.

What I dislike...
The 4:22 video does not provide suggestions for shy students to overcome fear of speaking in class nor does it provide specific examples of what happens after the discussion. The video assumes that all students will be prepared and responsible in the discussion process-- I can't always assume students will be model citizens of the process. Also, specific rubrics are not provided. In theory, I like the possibilities of this activity, but realistically, the teacher and students need to be organized, prepared, and structured.

Previously, I've used a koosh ball or other soft material ball to facilitate whole class discussions.  The room is arranged so that all students are facing one another in a large square or circle (no one in the middle). Students come to class having written down 3 questions on the assigned topic. They take turns throwing the ball to either ask a question or answer a question.  One student is charged with keeping track of who speaks and how many times. The goal is to have everyone in class ask at least one question and add to an answer for one question.  This works well as an introductory activity to class discussions, but the conversation becomes too disjointed having to rely on the throwing of the ball to keep it going. I will say that the baseball players in the class usually get a kick out of this type of discussion.

Applying the KIPP fishbowl technique in my classroom, instead of being in small groups (which is my usual set up for structured discussions), my students could as a whole class argue answers to open-ended questions. Since my classroom layout is similar to the fishbowl layout, it would be easy enough to move some desks around so that students could debate on topics that connect to the literature studied (heroism, leadership, euthanasia, resolving conflict, civil rights, attaining the American Dream, etc). The Socratic discussion could be used as a precursor for writing an argumentative essay. Also, as stated in the video, the skills used in a Socratic discussion are the same skills that are used in daily life when arguing or supporting any point made.  Small group, whole class, or just speaking to one person, the critical thinking skills used in the Socratic discussion are skills that students need for every class and beyond.


Update 12/7/12:  Applying the Socratic Seminar in Class

Students engaged in their first Socratic Seminar based on questions connected to Chapters 1-2 in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. I adapted the process shown in the video above.

My Process:

  1. Desks were arranged to create an inner circle of about 8 students and outer circle with the remaining members of class. Ground rules and expectations were discussed.
  2. Students in the outer circle used their devices or a netbook to sign on to and join the chat room I created for the backchannel discussion. The outer circle asked questions and made comments. 
  3. Four students in the outer circle volunteered to be the two Recorders of Answers and the two Reporters of Interesting Points. They kept track of the conversation on a collaborative Google Doc.
  4. The discussion questions were posted one at a time on the front board and I moved the conversation along as needed. 
  5. After about 10-15 minutes, the students changed roles and new questions were asked of the inner circle.
The questions themselves were open-ended, connected to the novel, and controversial so that students could reference the text, provide numerous opinions, and support their arguments. Students stated that they liked being given the choice to participate in the spotlight of the inner circle or keep a lower profile, but still strong presence, in the chat room.

After some initial trepidation, silliness in the backchannel chat room, and the inner circle learning not to talk over each other, the conversation progressed smoothly. I was able to moderate and facilitate the conversation as needed--which was minimal, except as you'll see towards the end of period 2's conversation. Notice the students aren't shy for calling out the inner circle or noting when students are monopolizing the conversation.

For the first time doing a backchannel discussion, things went well. I'm pleased with the level of engagement and can ignore the silly comments. Some of the students' comments were spot on and most haven't read to the end of the novella. One student stated that George was the kind of friend who would take a bullet for Lennie-- little does he know where George will "take" that bullet! A few knowing students did chuckle at the use of the cliche in period 8.

Today went so well because it was structured but still allowed the students to take control. I just hovered and monitored until needed.  The next step will be to add the role of the shadower so that students can get peer evaluations on their speaking and participation skills.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordle for Visual Analysis & Prediction

Wordle is a nifty little site that creates word clouds that can be used as an introductory "Do Now" or "Anticipatory Set" (using steps 1-5 below),  and later as a culminating activity and project (steps 6 & 7) using analytic thinking, prediction, collaboration, writing, and presentation skills that align with the Common Core Standards. This activity could be used for any age group.

The Process:

  1. Copy/paste the text of the story in Wordle to create the word cloud. Adjust the settings to create the desired effect.
  2. Project the Wordle for all students to see.
  3. Student individually write reactions/impressions of the wordle (5 mins) and create sentences using only the words presented in the Wordle.
  4. Students turn to their neighbor or work in groups and discuss the varying view points and create a group sentence (10 mins).
  5. Groups share their sentences with the class (5 mins) and make sure a copy is saved to access later.
  6. After studying the text, project the Wordle and the group sentences back on the board and discuss the accuracy of the Wordle and sentences (10-15 mins)
  7. In groups or individually, students could, as a final project, create their own word cloud of the text (or keywords from the text) focusing this time on the size and placement of the words in relationship to how the words are connected to each other in the story. Instead of a random Wordle, students would create an intentional word cloud. Students would also include a written rationale or present their word cloud and rationale to the class.

Here is a sample Wordle based on the short story, "Priscilla and the Wimps" by Richard Peck. I start the year off with this story because I can introduce all skills needed for being successful in the class, scaffold it with other short stories taught, and align with NJ's Week of Respect that targets bullying prevention. This story is excellent for 9th graders who are just entering high school because, while it seems simple to understand, there is actually a complexity in the motif and theme of the story and a focus on conflict resolution.  Peck builds his entire story around the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and allows for discussion of reliable narrators and how to resolve conflicts (or not to resolve conflicts). Themes presented in Peck's story are also found in Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"  --- two texts that challenge the students' comprehension and analysis skills.

Later in the year, I can use Wordles to facilitate in student understanding when we study poetry with Pygmalion and Shakespeare's sonnets and Romeo and Juliet in the 4th Marking Period. Students get discouraged when struggling with the language, but if the text is presented in a visually appealing word cloud that only uses the most frequently used words (and not all those thee's and thou's), they should gain an initial understanding of the poem's or soliloquy's themes and motifs.

This is a Wordle of Eliza Doolittle's final monologue to Professor Henry Higgins where she tries to explain her analysis of their relationship. Students can view this Wordle prior to reading George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, and complete the process above. Based on this Wordle, we can see that this monologue (and thereby the play) is focused on answering the question, what does a girl want? Here's the answer...

While Wordle is describes as a "toy" on their site, this "toy" could be used to facilitate the use of higher level thinking, writing, collaboration, and presentation skills.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Claco: Teachers & Technology Team Up

Claco (in Beta right now, but you can request an invite) provides a place for educators to store all their resources including files, bookmarks, websites, videos and just about any other content imaginable in organized and tagged online binders. Claco also allows for easy sharing with other educators, parents, and teachers with the ability to "snap" binders and files from other Claco users or share via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. While the organization and sharing are the foundations of Claco, there are additional features and the "what is to come" that make Claco stand out on the web.

The organizational and sharing aspects of Claco are excellent. In my previously paper-based classroom, I had shelves with 3 ring binders of each unit and novels studied, and file folders of resources stashed (ok, crammed) in filing cabinets. Claco mimics this design by streamlining the binder and file folder features in the Claco cloud. No longer do I need to worry about lending out binders hoping they get returned in pristine condition or running to the copier to share resources with my colleagues, since with one click I can determine if resources, for example Short Stories,  are public or private. It is now the responsibility of others to "snap" my resources to their own binders (and mine to snap their's) and I don't ever have to worry about collecting the lent out materials or remembering where I put my colleague's materials. 

The tagging feature is one of my favorites. Resources can be tagged by grade level, subjects, Common Core Standards (YES, Common Core Standards!), and keywords. Having the Common Core Standards already embedded is a major selling point for me. I do not have to look up the numbers or copy/paste the standards into my own plans. This feature is vital for saving time writing lesson plans online. The "What is to Come" has me very intrigued: According to Jordan Hamel (@JordanHamel), member of Team Claco, "We will have real-time lesson plan collaboration, and lesson building on Claco."

Jordan also puts it best with articulating the goals of Claco, "We are creating a place where educators can build, share and store class curricula, but also a community of educators that will share and learn together."  Team building and organization are vital in the online world of education, and Team Claco can help educators become connected. Claco promotes a positive networking environment that extends beyond the walls of one's own school building: teachers from across the country and world can share resources. #UnitedWeTeach

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Edutopia Video Reflection: No Rigor Mortis at SOF

"What if we...?"

With the new school year barely a month old, assessments and goals have been in the foreground of my educational schema:  beginning the year with multiple days of diagnostic assessments and trying to figure out how to authentically assess my students and manage the use of technology, I'm constantly thinking about where are we headed and how will we get there. I've started off the year with Edmodo and using a flipped process from day one (ok, really day 4 after mandatory diagnostic testing).  I have a general game plan in mind that I am constantly tweaking. I will say it is invigorating to explore the technological landscape and figuring out how to do what we've done in past years in a new tech-y and paperless way (just read my "soon" to be written post about The Most Wonderful First 1:1 Week).

Thinking about assessments, I came across this video on Edutopia.

The video, "Strategic Goals: Formative Plus Summative Assessment Equals Rigor," highlights NY's School of the Future use of thought-provoking authentic assessments to promote student performance. The students work on drafting and revising projects and papers to create an 8-10 page (minimum) Exhibition at the end of the school year. Teachers assess students on the formative process throughout the year, culminating in the final summative Exhibition. Some 9th grade students even wrote 15-20 page papers on controversial topics-- that is simply  astounding.

What I like about SOF's Exhibition:

  • Goal oriented
  • Personalized
  • Strategic
  • Authentic use of higher level thinking
  • Process oriented
  • Cross-curricular
I also like that the Exhibition is not a standardized test and that it is a project that pushes the students to achieve lofty academic goals.

While I do not use the Habits of the Mind on such a grand summative project as the teachers and students at SOF, I do constantly promote the use of critical thinking skills everyday in my classroom.

"But what if we....?"