Friday, October 17, 2008

The Roof -- The Roof -- The Roof is on FIRE

I can't believe that it has been less than a month since my last blog post. How quickly change happens in education.

About a week ago I had a dream that one of my students started a fire in the classroom across the hall. I saw the flames and sent a student to pull the fire alarm....there were adults and students in my a panic I started screaming for everyone to leave the room....the adults carried on their conversations as students lost control and began running across tables and doing crazy things. The adults continued to talk despite my pleas to leave the building. My dream ended with my classroom filling with smoke...

This dream has come at a time of great transition in my professional life. I have been appointed as the Science and Technology Coordinator and have handed my classroom off to a VERY CAPABLE student teacher. I was doing both jobs for about two weeks and have transitioned almost completely. And now, I am wandering around in a daze trying to figure out how to have the academy ready to drive learning in less than TEN months.

The crazy thing is that I have gotten less done in my full time capacity as I did doing it part time. I have literally been in meetings! I'm still teaching first block and there is about 1 hour of lunch supervision. Its CRAZY.

I'm very excited about the possibilities of having an academy full of teachers focused on integrating technology into their instruction. I just don't know where to start.

I think that the teachers think we have this secret plan about the transition that they are unaware of. If they only knew that I was just as confused as they are!!!

Hopefully in the coming WEEKS (not months) I will be able to develop a clearer picture that is transparent and supportive of teacher needs so that they can develop great instruction so that our students develop into amazing learners.

I hope to set up a google group or NING group that will fascilitate collaboration, provide book studies to help teachers focus on their practice, develop academy policies and practices, develop an idea of the picture of our learner, introduce teachers to the expectations of technology, and begin to paint a clearer picture of the S&T academy. I think all of this will be supported by the collaborative tools that Web 2.0 has.

One of the cool tools I'm excited about is through This adobe veture uses a Java platform to provide document creation, PDF creation, collaboration space where desktops can be shared. It is still in BETA and has a few kinks, but the document creation is a little cleaner than Google Docs and the super bonus is the PDF creation application.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

course management

I have created an "online" course experience for my students who are "retreads."

Those who have taken the class before and do not need language support are doing a self-paced version. I posted all of their learning activities on a wiki and am having them post them on their Goolge site.

I'm pretty excited. I've been playing with the idea of a course management system, namely sakai, but I may be able to do most things through a wiki.

the are blogging on a "reflection" page, doing notes and activities directly on their site.

its kinda cool....

I'm going to observe them this week, it is the first full week and see if they are more on task and completing more activities than before.

I am also excited that I can rescue my monolingual students and start emphasizing language through content!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

how to move from great to good

I don't know how "PC" this blog post will be....this is a warning.....I'm going to use this post to vent because I find that by venting I find clarification and ultimately new direction and resolve.
I love to teach, but sometimes I feel like the cliche: babysitter. I plan, sometimes to a fault and all I end up doing in a day is chasing students around the room, asking them to get on task and then pretending not to have my feelings hurt when the call me a name (the latest is McAsshole)!

I want each of my students to feel cared for and know that I expect them to excel. I wonder how clearly I have been able to voice this message over the past two weeks?!

My biggest headache comes from my 3rd and 4th block Social Studies classes. I thought they were supposed to be "ELA", but our school has such a high course failure rate, that half of the students are what Jennings lovingly refers to as "retreads." (Retreading works for my tires.....for a time, but isn't helping these students learn to learn or live. ) So, I have half of my students learning language, and the other half retaking the class. I can't really teach language....I attempt to teach content to students who have no idea what I'm saying and chasing the other half of my class around the room with threats and plees to "do thier work." Looking at my gradebook, I see that noone is passing ----- noone is completeing thier work.

I have often told myself: "I am a good teacher, good teachers handle all situations with grace and agility and make all students learn."

Last night I was reading a book for my Evaluation class for my principal's license. In summary it said, the job of a supervisor is to fascilitate growth among teachers so that students get the best education possible. It also said that supervisors must be aware of the teacher's experience, maturity, life obsticles, and setting ----what they have to deal with inside the 4 walls of their classroom. Supervisors should give teachers, especially young teachers, opportunities to grow and that means making sure their setting is manageable.

I keep comparing myself to Jennings. However, eve with 30 years teaching I won't be as great as she is nor will I command as much respect. Yet, here I am, a teacher with only three years experience expecting the results of a teacher with thirty. And, I feel that my administration expects the same.....wouldn't my class load be different if they did?

My question: how do I move from being a good teacher to a great teacher in my current setting?

And when did I become the teacher that blames my failures on my administration(/counseling center)?

I need to differetiate....everyone says so, but none can explain to me the steps to do it. It seems that differentiation can be explained in theory by textbooks, peers and administrators but, it takes experience and intuition to do it....and do it well.

By looking at my classes, I need to differentiate and create three - four lesson plans for each class. --- Thats my next step to figure out how to do this efficiently.

I also need to make sure I acknowlege my students who are on task....

I need to plan activities that are kinesthetic and allow for movement.....maybe I won't have to chase these kids around so much...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Woe, there is so much to do when school starts I don't know where to begin. I keep giving myself other tasks to do too....but they are so much fun!

First Area of Distraction
Dave Tarwater and I spent my plan today attempting to put Sakai onto one of the computers in my classroom. Our limited understanding of networks thinks that we can use one of the computers as a small server. Some where we did something wrong and it didn't work. I was hoping that it would be much easier to use than moodle. However, downloading and installing was way more than we could muscle today. I think there is something wrong with where our directory is pointed. I'm going to try the download from rSmart tomorrow. From playing around I really like the cleanness of Sakai, it doesn't seem as fumbly as moodle. It also offers blogs and eportfolios....I'm very excited about this. We're hoping to replace the e-courses that the school currenlty pays for with Sakai.

Second Area of Distraction
The ILT is planning on defining the new academies that our school will be moving into next year. We will be presenting the vision during after school PD sessions over 2 days. However, we had to throw in an overview session with the whole staff given by our principal. I did the math. Getting 80 teachers to leave one area of the school after the initial presentations to go to another part of school to get the overview of each acaademy seemed like a waste of time. We only have 45 mintues after school each day. SOO......I thought it would be cool if the teachers broke into their session and watched a streaming video of the principal at the same time. SWEET!! However, UStream does not work in-district(?) and whiziq only offers a small video with the larger white board....not what I was looking for. So, Joe pointed me to Mogulus, which is pretty sweet. It sets up like a news channel with scrolling text and everything. Also, your viewers don't need an account, you just point them to your page ( You can even embed in a webpage or a blog!!! It has a chat feature ....which would be cool, but it doesn't work in district...

I've enjoyed being distracted, but I have some cool stuff going on in my classes too....but its late, I'll share more tomorrow!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer Break is I have to think

The greatest growth I’ve experienced as a teacher came last year. This was the year I began to blog about my experiences in my classroom I found that I was able to work my way through most of my issues and really REFLECT on what worked and what didn’t. The greatest impact came from comments that colleagues made on my blog. These questions and thoughts led me into deeper thought. I became a researcher in my own classroom. I watched what was going on, made predictions, tested hypothesis and continually changed what I was doing to match the impact in my classroom. I believe that this is a very constructivist way to teach. I didn’t just settle for a copy of someone’s lesson plan and leave in that day. I didn’t rely on textbooks (my students can’t read them any way). I relied on what I was experiencing, what I was learning from my colleagues, and what I could find from research. As log as we are talking about cognition and learning, we might as well talk about Vygotsky. Through my blogging I made my own learning about teaching social. Vygosky writes: "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals" (Vygotsky 1978).

This is the understanding that I have constructed from the experiences that I have had.

While reading The Case for the Constructivist Classroom I experienced a paradigm shift. Piaget is very focused on the individual and their cognitive structures…I didn’t see him making connections to the social experiences that students may be having. “The growth of knowledge is the result of individual constructions made by the learner” (Brooks & Brooks 25).

I reorganized my understanding of creating understanding.

While I made these connections by communicating with others in a social setting (by blogging), the change in my teaching came from the individual level. I may have discussed and researched changing a practice, but the change was individual. I had to take these pieces from conversations and my own experience to create new meaning. I thought blogging only worked because it was social. But, I missed the fact that we construct ideas and socialize with them thus making an individual change. I think that Kant would agree according to The Case for the Constructivist Classroom, analysis of actions lead to new knowledge just as experience generates new knowledge (23).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

short post....'cause its been too long

I haven't had a blog post in a looonnngg time. I feel so horrible for not having the time to reflect on what happened at the end of this year. School ended a month early and so the end of term/year activities took place in only a couple of weeks. (I only made it to yoga 3 times last month).

I am currently working with my colleagues in creating a plan for our new academies in our new high school. I hope to reflect on the process in the next couple of weeks....Pretty exciting.

Right now I guess I'm pretending to live blog but there's too much discussion to keep up with....

I'm enjoying the process of discussion and collaboration with my colleagues....despite the topic! However, the topic is very exciting; we are creating philosophies of eduction and THEN trying to figure out how to see them through

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Research Results

Yesterday's post was a brief presentation to my research class on the results of my research on blogging with my classes. I will be presenting the full (20 minute) presentation on Tuesday, April 8th at the Action Research Conference at Jefferson County's Administration building.

I'm very excited with the results. I my study looked at how blogging impacted community, writing and retention of content in my ELA Social Studies classroom.

After the study
...80% of the students felt like they were part of a classroom community.
...80% of the students improved their attitudes towards their classmates, their school and their classroom
...All students reached partially-proficient on the writing rubric
...80% of the students moved an average of 4 points on the rubric
...60% of the students improved their writing organization
...100% of students improved the content in their writing
...students were able to discuss what they knew and didn't know
...the word "learned" was used 50 times in their blogs
...Students used classroom vocabulary in their blog entries

...Students cross-posted more often
...Students regularly commented on their classmate's blogs
...I posted/commented more often on the student blogs

Monday, April 14, 2008

Read this doc on Scribd: Presentation for class

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pre-Spring Break Blues

On the Civil War unit. Its going pretty well. My students worked for two days researching a civil war and putting a video together on the war. It really wasn't supposed to be that hard or indepth...however few of them got the work done. So, yesterday they were to present and the students who did present had awful presentations. On top of that....I was being observed.
If I were on American Teaching Idol....Simon would have done me in!

Today they are presenting whether or not they have their videos done.

This week I have discovered Google Sites. Its a ton like wetpaint. I need to figure out the protections on it though, because it looks like anyone in the district can edit a student's page. I'm treating them as their unit portfolios, to keep track of thoughts and assignments. They will put their video(if they have one ) on their site and they will put their final toondoon on their site.

Despite my awful observation, I feel like I am moving forward with the unit and that at the end the students will know what they are supposed to know.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Civil War Unit

I've put together my lesson plans addressing the Essential Questions:
What effect does civil war have on people? What is the definition for civil war?

The first task is for students to research a current day civil war and describe it to the class. Then they will create a voicethread or a video to describe what a civil war is. Finally, they will use toondoo to compare and contrast these current day civil wars to the American Civil War.
--All over the course of a week and a half! --

I'm very excited about this unit and believe that it is something that my students can get into.
Please browse the plans and let me know if you have any feedback!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Blogging Research Tag Cloud

Essential Questions

I've been thinking about how to use Essential Questions to make American History more appealing to students who are not from the United States. I'm planning a unit on the Civil War. I'm bored by the Civil War. I became a Social Studies teacher because I enjoy looking at people....not dates or battle fields. This unit in our curriculum is all about the Civil War and wants the emancipation proclamation and a battlefield described. I've put off creating this lesson because I'm bored by just thinking about it.

I began thinking about the bigger issue.....what is the thing that is timeless about the Civil War? ...not the causes....the actual war itself.

I did what I do best, I had a conversation....several conversations about what this essential question(s) could be. I sat down with one of my assistant principals, Kevin Greeley, asking if I could have a conversation with him about "instruction." We discussed that dates may not be that important for my students....but the ability to connect the material to their lives is important. I have students from Egypt, China, Somalia, and Mexico. All of these countries are closer to Civil War than I have ever been.

I took the things we talked about and talked with Joe Miller. For spending the first part of his career outside of education, he has amazing insights. He is our director of Assessment and the Global Learner Guru of Technology.

Through these conversations, I've finally narrowed the questions down:

What effect does civil war have on people?
What is the definition of civil war?

image from:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Essential Questions

I am wrapping up my unit on the causes of the civil war and wondering how I make it more broad and meaningful for my ELA students. How do I pose a question that we would like answered to day, and answer it by looking at the Civil War. I know its doable and I feel like I can do it and I'm touching on it....but what does it look like? How different would the class look? How would I still cover those (few) things that the curriculum is asking me to cover?

After CSAP Regina and I are going to plan our our "tearing down the walls" unit. It will be within our school. It will involve 10th grade IB Alegbra students and 11th grade ELA Social Studies. I think that if we get that Essential question down and figure out how to hold conversations and virtual projects between theses classes I will be half way to figuring out how answer these questions.

Also, looking at framing the umbrella Essential Questions that will frame the lens for the Science/Technology academy!

I'm beginning to see the importance and usefulness of Essential Questions. The Edge textbook by Hampton Brown/National Geographic does an amazing job of Essential Questions! I'm going to study it and find ways to do it on my own and make it feel organic!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Live Blogging

Below is my first at liveblog with my students I'm following a lesson plan that I posted in my

I began class showing the students my blog and having them ask and answer questions. They were really engaged, looking over their resources to find the information. All of them!

Then I asked them to form groups to lead their own conversation tomorrow...they fell apart. I asked them to think of 3 points they wanted to make and what questions they want answered. Their goal was to "develop deeper understanding of what would cause a country to go to war against itself."

I need to think of another scaffold I should that tomorrow's presentations don't go wacko!

Live Blog --- American History

Sunday, March 2, 2008


What a weekend! I didn't do much work, I just prepared a few clicker questions to go along with a CSAP training presentation. However, today we managed to put in a new sink, garbage disposal and dishwasher. Really just wanted the dishwasher, but I guess it doesn't work like that!

I will admit that it feels a little weird to be so excited about kitchen appliances at 24, but hey whatever makes me happy ... right?

This week I plan to get alot of my data from my blog research analyzed. I think the biggest thing I'll find is that I needed more time to actually show any change in student performance. I will be able to say that blogs, just like any new tool has learning curve and must be taught to be effective. I teach textbook reading strategies, so why not teach blogging?

CSAP training tomorrow, hopefully the teachers won't be too mean to me! It is annoying to sit through the same presentation every year...hopefully free markers will make them a little nicer... and heck the clickers will make it interesting!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Goolge Docs Lesson Plans

I've created some lesson plans using Google Docs to get students to think more critically and collaborate.

Civil War and Google Docs 2

Civil War and Google Docs 1

I used, a resourced that I heard from Sharon Peters. I'm really excited to find a place to upload lessons and that can be interactive. Visitors can view my lesson plans and add comments and questions. On a side note my student teacher said she had to pay for a service through CUD that allowed her to put in her lesson plans and papers for grading and feedback! After I showed her this service she was a little upset that she was spending money on something that was harder to use. I love Web 2.0, especially when its FREE!!!!

I used the SIOP lesson plan template, which helped me reflect on my lessons from the lens of an ELA Teacher--which I should have been doing. However, the last few weeks I have been so consumed by getting my students to think critically that I've over looked the language barrier. I need to take a step back and make sure they have received good comprehensible input before I get them to think and do things with the information.

I've been thinking alot about essential questions lately, I'd like to think some more about how to use the Essential Questions to create language targets and to allow students to apply and use their background knowledge -- even if they have no understanding of American History.

{this post is cross posted with the Global Learner website}

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thoughts on Science and Technology Academy

This is a tag cloud of a chat between Joe Miller, Bud The Teacher, Regina Stewart and myself. We are discussing what a Science and Technology academy would look like.

google and thinking strategies

Returned from a day off to chaos...don't really know what I was expecting.
I've been working this week on having students do "double entry diaries" on Google Docs. Tomorrow, they will share them and do them collaboratively under the guidance of Kristen, my student teacher. However, I still have ten students who don't remember their google password! Maybe I'll just have them make a new one!

I've been getting some great feed back from people on what they want to see in a Science and Technology Academy. I still need more feedback though!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If I were in charge of the world... would look SO much different. But, what if they let us edu techo peeps plan the instruction at a school...
I believe that great learning is collaborative, problem solving, communicative.....all the things that "Web 2.0" provides.....

With these tools....what pedagogy and infrastructure would there need to be? Regina Stewart and I put together a VoiceThread look for your help!

Please take a look at our prompts and tell us, if you were in charge of the world...what would a 21st century education program look like.....please browse comment and doodle

Blogging for reflection its been a month since my last post. February is a crazy month. I don't know if its crazy like this for everyone or just educators? I think I want to begin micro-blogging -- doing small entries more often.
The reflective practice of blogging is very meditative and relaxing. I Need to really do it more--to keep myself even and constantly learning and adapting.
After reading Who Moved My Cheese for a seminar for grad school I connected the book to blogging:

I like how our hero who finally decided to move and find new cheese recorded his journey on the walls. Reflection and documenting the journey is the biggest key to growth. I have found the past year while reflecting on my blog, I have found the biggest growth through my educational pursuits. Reflecting has cemented the progress that I have made and has made the things that I have learned real and has moved me into the next level of my profession. As a teacher, there is always something to work on and change in my classroom. Keeping track of the things that I am changing and how that change progresses is the greatest gift I have given myself. The ability to reflect on what works, what doesn’t work and why gives me the opportunity to grow into my profession.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Assignment Protocol

Today was an eyeopening experience. We began by taking an assignment and dissecting it to figure out what proficiency would look like, what skills students needed to gain proficiency, and finally what instruction would need to look like.

The activity provided opportunities for discussion surrounding proficiency and how our expectations played into proficiency. The greatest impact that this activity had was the discussion on what instruction would have to look like in order to reach proficiency.

In essence, what we are really focusing on is presenting "e" (the activity that requires the highest level of thinking) to students and then directing instruction so students can reach our highest expectation.

I think that we all understand that we need to design our lessons backwards, but this activity really demonstrated how to get into the task to make sure its measuring what we want and that we have directed instruction that way. I think most of the groups created assessments, so we created focal points for an entire period of instruction. Doing this makes instruction focused and meaningful

The most powerful thing that I walked away was the idea that the assessment or task should be presented to students before instruction so that they have an idea of what they are expected to do.

(this post is cross-posted on the ILT blog:

Monday, January 28, 2008


I'm still digesting the thoughts from this weekend. While I don't fully have them developed and am too tired to start running through them, I'm going to quickly run through the connections I have made and then return to flush them out in the next few days

As Global Learners we began with the tools, but the process quickly and instantaneously flushed itself out through professional and personal development which intern became a reflection on learning how to guide learning.

EduCon was a conference for and by those in the EdTech frame of mind. The focus of the conference was learning, the technology was secondary.

Has the concept of web 2.0 given us the voice and means to transform education? Under the tenants of web 2.0 we encourage critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and collaboration. These are also/now the tenants that we try to change education. Has web 2.o influenced school 2.0 or merely given us the voice and means for change?


I was exhausted the during the three long days that we were in Philly. I didn't get to update as often as I'd like.

I came away with two "aha's"
  • learning comes before tools
  • pick 1 thing that you will rock at
The entire conference was focused on sound instruction and what that looks like....the great sessions addressed learning and stayed clear from tools. I am a teacher first and then a teacher who uses technology. Has anyone really ever said that they were a textbook teacher? Is it necessary to say I'm a edtech person? While touring the school this fact became obvious all of the teachers were amazing. The amazing instruction was apparent when watching a classroom with little student engagement. It was clear the these really are normal kids who lose focus just like my students. How a teacher manages and directs the class is more important than what technology they use. Bad teaching gets worse when technology is introduced in the equation.

Next month some of my Global Learner colleagues and I are presenting on professional and personal development. I think that it is necessary for us to remember to stay away from the tools. We need to focus on what good professional/personal development is and how to create real change.

I'm still working on my thing...but as a team we began brainstorming the skills and strengths that we want our students to possess. The vision would be to create a statement: Adams City High School students are ______________. Then, we decide what this means with a few added statements. Finally we hope to pull this vision into instruction, and decide how are we addressing these goals. As this vision becomes ironed out I can guarantee that I will follow and address this vision

Friday, January 25, 2008

EDUCON day one

I am exhausted I just finished the pre-conferenced day for the educon. We toured the Science Leadership Academy today, the lesson or keystone that I'm taking away from today is that technology is only a tool an with it presents new management strategies. Even with the best laid lesson plans, without student-focused instruction (even with technology) you still can't have engagement. Just because each student has a computer doesn't mean that they are going to be smarter or learn takes a well balanced teacher to make this happen.

I am going to look for insight into classroom management and low-achieving kids tomorrow.

I don't know which sessions I want to go through, I need to take a few more minutes to see what is really relevant to me. Jen, my principal said that I need to pick one or two things to be really great at. I can know a lot about a lot of things, but I should be focus on becoming expert on one or two at a time, maybe that starts tomorrow!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

AM Pre-Flight

My thought this morning.....
Teaching is a weird and wonderful experience. Each day is filled with both types of encounters. Talking to veteran teachers I have come to realize that teaching is not something that you get used to. Teachers that do go on auto-pilot do so at the expense of their diverse-ever-changing students.
Not to say you don't form routine, or build a pattern into what you still experience the weird and wacky.

This morning is extra a professional...I am preparing for Philly!!! The conference is going to be amazing....and I can't wait to be exposed to new ideas and ways to help my students experience their learning-selves.

However, I am a little tired. I was awakened this morning by breaking glass. I sent my boyfriend out to try to find the burglar. He found nothing and chocked my experience up to the meeting we had earlier with ADT sales man who guaranteed us that in our neighborhood we were in danger.

But....this morning when I let Gizmo out to the backyard through my sun porch I discovered broken glass. The Diet Coke in novelty bottles had frozen and the bottles exploded.

so this is what I'm thinking...if its this cold in cold is it in Philly?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

finally a post

I took a computer hiatus during Christmas vacation. It has taken me a week and a half since being back to muster the energy and time to begin blogging again.

If anyone questions the legitimacy of students blogging, they must understand how exhausting it is!

I began my research project on ELL blogging. So far so good. They have blogged five or six times in the past week. Their first step was to create a blog of their own. They have now been posting reflection on daily learning on their blog. As a teacher it makes it very clear who's getting the content and who's not.

One frustration however is that 3 or 4 students out of every class forget their log in information. I don't understand this because they can remember their yahoo and myspace information. I think that the expectation of them being responsible for the posting will impact that!

Next week I want them to begin commenting and cross-posting on their classmates' bog.

In the next few days I'm trying to set up an aggregator with all their blogs on it.

I need to get back to "quantitating data"