Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.

Day 8 – Genius Hour for MEEEEEE

Today I had my own 20% time. This year, I’m teaching half of the school day, and the other half, I serve kind of as an Instructional Coach for tech integration in our building.  I’ve structured it so that Monday-Thursday, I am at my colleagues’ disposal.  My buddy Dr. Will gave me the fantastic idea to use SimplyBook.Me to help me keep my sanity…er, I mean to schedule professional learning sessions.

Fridays are my days.  Oh, I’m a poet and don’t even know it.  But anyway, I am claiming this one day of the week to handle everything that I want to do.  I have three hours of professional learning with…myself lol.

Today, my project was to fix all of the laptops in the mobile lab that could be saved, in order to use them with my classes.  Prior to that, we had issues with some error message popping up.  It said something along the lines of, “no logon servers are available,” or some infuriating garbage similar to that.  I was able to save all but two by hardwiring them to the school Internet, logging on, then shutting down.

Third and fourth periods were cool.  The kids were a little amped, I’m guessing because it’s Friday.  Also, there were some major changes to the leaderboard since yesterday.  Two players hit 50 points today.  I’m going to need to slow up on giving out points, or make items in The Item Shop a little more expensive.  Good thing they have a lot of options, or things could get chaotic.

One major takeaway that I learned from ELA class today is to save all of the high-energy fun stuff for the end of class.  I allowed them to play each other’s Zondle games right after our warm-up with Edmodo’s Snapshot.

I’ll come back to Zondle in a second, but I just have to say that two of my kids are now meeting last week’s standard (8.RI.10), which I threw back in the mix just for fun.  Last week, not a single solitary kid scored “meets standard.”  The funny thing is that 8.RI.10 was only in the curriculum once last week, and the students are supposed to hit that mastery level at the end of the year.  I think all of the Actively Learn warm-ups are helping.  We also did 8.RI.1, which we did work on this week, although not much.  Five students have hit the mastery level there.  I’m expecting better next week.

As for Zondle, the students were so hype to play each other’s games.  I was walking around, looking over shoulders, and I found some of the games were on things like cell division.  Ha!  Not exactly what I was going for, but I’m glad it’s academic.  Next week, I will be very clear with them that they should be using academic vocabulary words while in my class.

We then used Google Classroom and the online textbook for a group classwork assignment.  Both periods ran out of time, so I assigned the rest as homework.  We are going to have to work on the collaborative teamwork thing.  It will go more smoothly as the year goes on.

For sixth period, Technology, we played Kahoot to review digital citizenship.  This was a final activity, before I give them my blessing and set them loose on their gamified journey in Tech class.  Speaking of that, I will work on the challenge board this weekend.

Kahoot, for those of you who don’t know, is a website that is very similar to bar trivia, but it’s educational.  That’s probably the best way I can describe it.  Thanks to my buddy Carla‘s awesome idea, we used Kahoot as a way to educate parents on new tech developments in our county, including GAFE and BYOD, yesterday at BTSN.  The parents had a great time, and this planted the seed for today’s activity with the students.

By the way, the seventh graders totally called me out today on not giving them their Xbox party last year.  D’oh!

I keep forgettin’…

I was going to wait on this post until the new year. The topic has been in my “To-Blog” list for quite some time now, but after reading this article in the Huffington Post, I was inspired to go on ahead and write it.

My long-term memory is impeccable…I can still spout off my first grade best friend’s phone number.  I remember every detail of my grandmother’s apartment.  I remember being carried back to my crib as a toddler.

Short-term memory?  Ehh, not so much.

Too Young for “Senior Moments?”

When I was a kid, grown-ups used to tell me that if I had a thought that passed through my mind then disappeared (aka a “senior moment,” as many people call it), it probably wasn’t that important.  I’ve noticed that the older I’ve become, these senior moments have become more and more the norm.  What’s super-frustrating is when you know it was something important, but you just can’t freakin’ remember!

Take this situation, for example.  Right before break, I promised my co-workers that I would burn a CD for a school roller-skating party.  I came home, set up the playlist, then went upstairs to grab a blank CD.  When I got to my home office, I forgot why I was in the room.  So, I went back downstairs.  Five minutes later, I remembered…oh yeah, the CD!  I went back upstairs to get the CD, and almost forgot why I was there yet again.  Le sigh.

The Accident

Unfortunately, these moments happen more frequently than I’d like to admit, especially for someone my age (*cough cough* twenty-tween *cough*).  So, naturally, I attributed my shortcomings to an accident I had a little over two years ago.

*cue dream sequence music and zig-zags*

Two years ago, back in September 2011, I had a bad fall.  Prior to this incident, I was a freakin learning machine!  I was built for the academic life, soaking up information like a sponge, writing papers in record time, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah.  But one night, that all changed.  Dun dun dun.

I will save you all of the yucky, gory details…long story short, I ended up with staples in my head, and a very bad concussion.

If you’ve never had a concussion, let me tell you, it was quite an experience.  I found it fascinating, although incredibly sucky.  These are the main things I remember, from the following week:

  • My mind was moving at normal speed, but my body wasn’t responding as fast.
  • I’d try to send a text, but I realized that I couldn’t spell anything right.
  • I would sleep all day.
  • Strangers started being really nice to me, for no apparent reason.

Within a few weeks, on the surface, it appeared that I had returned to normal.  However, things were far from being the same.  For over a year, I was very emotional about everything.  I had little patience, and hardly any attention span.  This made teaching and studying very difficult.  However, my family, colleagues, and professors were very supportive.

Eventually, the moodiness and impatience diminished, and I found strategies to cope with the forgetfulness and lack of attention span (which have yet to ).  Most of these included technology.

My iLife

My students are always teasing me about my brand loyalty to Apple.  99.99999% of the time, I have either an iPhone (or iPad…or iMac…or MacBook) somewhere on my person.  However, these products help me to stay organized.  Here are a few apps that I have found useful, and you may, too (concussion or not):

  1. Evernote: allows you to take notes, and sync them across all your devices.  Even supports pictures, audio, and videos.  You can create different notebooks to organize the information you collect.  Teechur bonus: You can use Evernote to create electronic portfolios of student work.
  2. 30/30:  allows you to set up to-do lists with a specified amount of time to spend on each task.  This helps me with the whole attention thing, as I tend to get restless unless I’m multitasking.  Since multitasking may be counterproductive, this app helps me to stay focused on one activity, and reduces my anxiety by showing me how much time I have left.  Teechur bonus: Sound familiar?  A lot of people (including the little ones that we teach) can probably relate.
  3. Pinterest/Diigo/Pocket/etc.: (includes all the apps that can bookmark interesting content for later.)  I worry less about missing important information and can stay focused on the task at hand.  Teechur bonus: All these useful links come in handy when collaborating with my PLN.  (Did you know that you can set up Diigo to sync with your favorites on Twitter?)
  4. Parkmobile: never forget to run out and feed the meter again.  Also, it can even find your car for you.  Winning!
  5. Calendar:  Ohhhh, this is a lifesaver.  It’s pretty self-explanatory, but I have to say that I love how it auto-syncs with my Google calendars.  I must have about 15 different calendars floating around, from work to workouts, from social activities to gigs.  Electronic calendars that sync across devices?  Total game-changer.  I was sick of losing the paper one, anyway.

Closing Thought

Jerry Springer, I am not.  However, the Huffington Post article that I read today really gave me some food for thought.  After I read it, I wondered if maybe I became too reliable on all of this tech?  Is it possible that I could have made a full recovery, if not for these crutches on which I continue to lean?  *lawyer voice*  And is it not a coincidence that this aforementioned incident coincided with the release of the iPhone 4S, packaged with Siri and iOS5?  Is this just a classic case of “the butler did it?”  Just blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-accident???

Ok, I’m done lol.  Maybe one day, when I have a few weeks of leisure time to kick back, I can try to unplug totally and see what happens.

Leisure time…pshhhh…who am I kidding?  I’m a “teechur.”

What are your favorite productivity apps?  Chime in below.