Day 22: PLN

What's a PLN? A PLN in an acronym for Personal Learning Network and I've had one since my very first year teaching.

Over the past few years, it's been an amazing source of support, encouragement, resources and ideas. My first connection to a PLN was through Twitter, surprisingly. I had signed up for the Twitter while I was still in college, but never really found a use for it.

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Day 20: Digital Trail

How do I curate student work? Man, that is a task that I am still trying to navigate effectively. I think this year working with students who have used 1:1 iPads last year, we may utilize the FreshGrade student version to identify and showcase their own work.

I do believe leveraging technology is crucial for my students. Digital portfolios and collections provide the opportunity for written work in addition to video capture, photo graphs and audio recordings.

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Day 19: Reflection

Day 19: Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.

Reflection is an amazing thing. I've been reminded of its power over the past few weeks through participation in this blog challenge. Granted, it's not always easy to keep up and I am definitely behind by almost eight days, but with each question that I write about, let alone contemplate, my mind is pushed to turn back upon itself and consider.

Consider what I did, what I am doing and above all else -- why? Consider the possibilities of opportunity. Consider the outcome of change. Consider the strength of sharing. Consider the best against the better.

Students can (&should) reflect on their learning, but they're not always taught how. I must admit that I've quickly created self-assessment sheets for students while I am out of the building and they have a substitute, yet I rarely take the time to teach them the purpose or the process of meaningful reflection. 

So many times at the end of a long-term project have I thrown together a stack of thought-provoking questions, with the great expectation that students will come to grand revelations about their learning processes, only to find empty and generic responses.

How easy and autonomous for a thirteen year old to check a few boxes and circle a bunch of numbers, yet completely miss an opportunity for growth? How many times have I done this myself? 

I have made many attempts at what I thought was authentic reflection for students, but I can't say many have been successful. If I am going to provide students an opportunity to reflect, I need to teach, and probably show, them exactly how it can be done. 

That's a start.

Day 18: A Teacher is

Day 18: Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…”

Writing is probably one of my weakest areas (along with basic political, geographical and scientific facts) so it's no wonder why I've put off Day 18's topic for so long

A teacher is a trainer.
A teacher is a guide.
A teacher is a light.
A teacher is a performer.
A teacher is a coach.
A teacher is a director.
A teacher is a compass.
A teacher is a leader.
A teacher is an artist.
A teacher is a conductor.

A teacher is a person.

Day 17: $

Day 17: What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

Most challenging issue in education today...

Dolla, dolla bill y'all.

I honestly don't know enough about all of the issues to pick the most challenging, but the one that's frustrated me in the past has been funding and dollars.

But it's not all about the money. It's about what happens when there is none. I've seen my share of classrooms that are packed with kids. Students as young as five, sitting in rooms that have no air circulation while the building heats up to over ninety-degrees. Teachers stretched thin across their roster, hoping to have meaningful interactions with each of their +150 students every day. Kids trying to make the best of trying to focus and learn in rooms that were designed for young people of the past.

Yeah. I don't know much about the politics, but it always seems to come back to money.

(I couldn't find a way to incorporate "I Need a Dollar" by Aloe Blacc, so here it is for your listening pleasure.)

Day 16: Telepathy

Day 16: If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

It would be incredibly cool to be a telepath so that I could psychically train and teach all my students. A little more Matrix than Professor X.

But I guess a realistic super power, or at least as realistic as they come, would be the ability to find a way to spend time with every student, every day. At least for a moment. I think that would have great impacts on their success.

So often the minutes of each period mysteriously vanish and now with shortened classes this year, I need to be even more strategic with my time. If I divided up my entire class period between all of my students, I could spend 1:40 with each of them. But that's not the best way to spend my time either.

If we are wishing for super powers, managing our time in class together would be at the top of my list. That and flying.

Day 15: Risk

Day 15: Name three strengths you have as an educator.

I'm not a fan of stating the things (I think) I am good at. I'd much rather wait for someone to tell me what I'm good at.

This school year has been different from most. For some reason, I just can't seem to get myself out of the gate and up and running. Because of that, I've been pretty stressed, somewhat impatient and fairly unorganized, so it's kind of tough to attempt to identify my areas of strength.

Earlier this week, my admin had said some things about me (truly awesome and humbling things!) which changed a lot of the perspective I had been having these past few weeks. It might just be enough to get me out of this rut.

Anyway, three things I am good at as an educator. These will be short.

  1. Connecting with Students.
  2. Connecting with Teachers.
  3. Taking risks.

Day 14: TENSE

Day 14: What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?

I remember being in AP English in high school. I hated hate writing and nothing was more frustrating than spending 3-5 days (we had a block schedule, too), pouring over an analytical essay about the social and political themes in some book that I probably didn't even understand because there were no spark notes for it, and finally turning it in to be reviewed by the teacher, only to get it back with a few words at the top. TENSE. REDO.

I was fifteen. WTF is TENSE? And was I supposed to fix this paper?

Feedback is not a check mark. It isn't 34/40. It's not even an A-. Feedback is what you give a student so they know what to do next. It's specific and descriptive with a focus on process and strategy, not necessarily the result or outcome. Feedback is timely and ultimately all for the purpose of supporting students and pushing them just a little bit more.

How am I doing at giving feedback? Well to reflect on the past four weeks (FOUR WEEKS?!) I have to say that I am not in the same place as I was at the end of last year. I've done the verbal feedback quite often, but I really enjoy providing students with written feedback, and that's only happened once so far. I probably provide feedback daily through questioning, but I really would like to increase my written responses.

I know it's powerful and that students need it. I just need to put it on my daily to do list.

Day 13: @DJ_NeckTie is on the Twitter

Day 13: Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

Being so lucky to be part of a 1:1 iPad school, I would think my edtech tools would have changed from when I didn't teach at a 1:1 iPad school. They're actually all the same.

The Twitter.

I found this bad boy way back during my first year of teaching. It was the best PD I had ever had and I was connected to so many educators and resources -- I didn't have time to sift through them all. Today, I'm not as Twitter-savvy as I used to be, but this year I am using it more than I have in the past and I can't believe that I have neglected it for so long. It is ripe with teachers sharing their successes and struggles, their lessons and philosophies, their classrooms and their students and so much more. If you are not on the Twitter, I highly suggest you get an account, or give me permission to create one for you. (@DJ_NeckTie)

Google Apps for Education.

I was so happy when my district moved to GAFE a few years ago. I had used the regular Google Apps my first few years teaching, and it streamlined almost everything I needed to do. There was a time where Evernote was competing for some of my cloud-based word processing and file organization, but now with the updated versions of Drive, Docs and Sheets (not to mention the newly released Google Classroom), I am quite pleased that I stuck it out with Google. Everything I need is in one place, or can be linked to one place, and the search feature has saved my butt so many times. If you are still creating things in Word or Excel and want to share it with a bunch of other people, you probably should just start it in Google Drive. Saves me some serious copy-paste conversion time.


True, so this tool was definitely not on my list before the 1:1 iPad revolution, but it's been so great to have. I've used it tons when I taught science and social studies. It was great for sketching flow charts, taking notes, labeling models and drafting posters. Then I found out that my math students loved showing their calculations in the paper app too. Worked as a quick and easy whiteboard for fluency practice. Plus, everyone's handwriting just looks 10x more beautiful in the Paper53 app.

Other things that are probably running in the background on my devices: EvernoteNotability & FreshGrade.