Saturday, February 22, 2014

The 7 Key Areas of My Learning & Teaching Philosophy

Recently, it dawned on me that the last time I wrote about my philosophy on learning and teaching, I had not yet stepped foot in an American high school. In fact, my views at that time were shaped by my work as a high school teaching assistant for two years in France, followed by two years as a teaching assistant in grad school, and, then, as an adjunct faculty member for a little over a year at the local university and technical college. Those experiences provided me with new insights, and have definitely impacted my views, but my philosophy has really been shaped by time spent in the high school classroom. 

It would be interesting to read my first statement, and compare it to my current philosophy, so I’m sure I’ll locate it on an old flash drive at some point. In the meantime, here is an updated look at some of my views on this noble profession. How would your list look if someone asked you to share your philosophy?

1. Learning & Teaching
-Model what it is to be a lifelong learner, and share your passions outside of the content area.
-Make both mistakes and recovery an important and vital part of the discussion, and share specific examples of how this process contributes to growth.
-Keep direct instruction to a minimum.
-Make small group instruction the norm.
-Guide students through their learning rather than talk at them.
-Move around the room. Get on the floor with your learners. Be present.
-Engage learners in collaborative tasks that allow them to problem solve and make decisions.
-Make learning authentic.
-Take risks. Then, share successes and failures with everyone.
-Vary the learning experiences.

2. World Language
-Maximize use of class time for practice in the target language.
-Make culture an everyday part of the learning; not a special, separate lesson.
-Provide learners with authentic learning experiences. In the world language classroom, this means using resources that are created by native speakers for native speakers.
-Connect with language learners in target cultures for purposeful learning experiences.
-Lead trips to target language countries from time to time.

3. Assessment
-Develop assessments that require learners to demonstrate deeper understanding and meet the standards.
-Give students the chance to redo both formative and summative tasks, but require extra practice beforehand.
-Evaluate behavior and learning separately.

4. Relationships
-Model the social skills you want to see in your learners. Positive energy and empathy go a long way.
-Remember that we do not always know what our students’ must face after that last bell of the day.
-Communicate your standards, and stick to what you believe, but be human.
-Find a way to get to know each one of your students.
-Write each student a note to tell him/her that you notice his/her strengths.
-Show parents/guardians that you care about the success of their child.
-Involve parents/guardians in the learning, when possible. Send updates, photos, event recaps, and anything else that is happening in the class.
-Attend events that allow you to see/support your students in their element, whether it be basketball games, piano or dance recitals, or chess tournaments.

5. Student Voice
-Empower your learners to use their voice effectively by sharing examples of constructive criticism.
-Conduct surveys (e.g. quick exit slips or formal course evaluations) on a regular basis.
-Reflect on learner feedback.
-Share thoughts and any plans for change as a result of feedback.
-Show learners that you care about their input.
-Allow students to choose what they’re learning and methods to accomplish tasks.

6. Personalization
-Engage learners in decision-making discussions about their learning.
-Invite students to choose their presentation tool as long as they can produce the end results as defined by the task.
-Give learners opportunities to explore/research topics that interest them personally.
-Choose your own professional learning experiences that allow for a personalized experience.
-Become an active learner by attending more than just required professional development sessions at your school and/or district.

7. Technology
-Use technology to enhance learning. Otherwise, tech-related tasks might be identified as busy work and/or learners will not see the immense value in it.
-Make discussions regarding the digital footprint an everyday occurrence – not a separate lesson.
-Show learners how tech can enrich their lives. 


Saturday, February 15, 2014

In the 1:1 iPad Classroom : Using Interactive Whiteboards for Presentations

When a school goes 1:1 with iPads, or any other device, it can feel like it happened overnight even if the reality is quite the opposite. In fact, it can be compared to the experience of a first year teacher who learned all sorts of good techniques for magic in the classroom, but then reality sets in on day two or three. No matter how much time educators are given to research, plan, and explore projects and cool apps, it's never enough. That's good and bad. As education professionals, we are lifelong learners by default so we are thirsty for new challenges (Get on board, if you're cruising. It's never too late to make positive change! Wait, you're reading my post. I'm preaching to the choir...) It doesn't feel cool, though, to put so much time in what we think is great preparation only to find out that our efforts don't always produce the best (or, sometimes, most effective) outcomes. C'est la vie, non?

Here's a prime example. I did tons of research during the summer before the iPads debuted in the classroom, throughout the year, and then again during the summer after that initial year. Guess what. It's been 1.5 years since iPads were distributed to everyone, and it's only been in the past month that I have realized the power of interactive whiteboard applications. This is due, in part, to the fact that it was completely overwhelming to revolutionize the way we utilized our learning space. As it is the case with most examples of change, I found a meaningful purpose for this app in my unique learning environment at the moment that inspiration hit me. Just as new teachers discover ways to effectively use class time as they make their way through the first years in the profession, I have been reliving that feeling, in a sense, as I discover ways to enhance the learning experience without making tablets seem like fluffy, entertainment contraptions. It has been so exciting!

My most recent inspiring moment occurred after a refreshing, mini brain break in December. Imagine that?! I started thinking that it would make sense to ask students to record and submit their presentations electronically from time to time since it takes up so much precious class time for each student to present en direct. As a result, I installed the ShowMe app, made a demo, and, finally, introduced it to my learners a few weeks ago. (I chose it because it's free, which allows me to avoid asking parents to make any more purchases at this point in the year.)

In the future, I will ask students to publish their work (rather than submit it to me directly.) Then, I will ask them to pick several presentations to watch while completing a follow-up task. In the meantime, here are some examples of student use of the interactive whiteboard app:

French - Level Two (Novice)
To begin a unit on travel and exploration, learners were asked to choose a research topic and ascertain interesting facts about Sénégal, a Francophone African nation. They used the app of their choice to first post photos that would illustrate their research. Then, they moved it to the ShowMe app where they recorded their presentations in French. (They could use one note card with a list of key words.)

Sample 1:  (Keep watching. Her photos appear around 25 seconds in.)
Sample 2:  (Lesson learned: Make sure students take a screenshot of the presentation view of their photos.)

French - Level One (Novice)
In the middle of a unit on communities, learners shared their personal thoughts on local seasons/weather and what s/he likes to do. Students used the Popplet app ($4.99) to create a mind map of their ideas and then transferred them to the ShowMe app where they recorded their presentations.

Sample 1:

Sample 2:

How do you (or would you) enhance learning with interactive whiteboard apps? Please share your ideas in the comments below.