Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Four Strategies for Blending and Flipping Your Classroom

Technology can help teachers “Ignite Learning” in the classroom by promoting literacy development and critical thinking. The ability to communicate and create is what sparks learning.

“Kids these days” are just wired to operate in a digital environment, which enables them to take control of their education. This technology captivates students and makes them desire to learn more about the content.

Elite and innovative educators are “Flipping the Classroom” in order to meet the diverse needs of students. The numerous FREE online resources available can create a classroom that extends beyond normal school hours and walls.  

This provides students with more flexible opportunities for peer interaction, learning the content, and developing technology skills. “Flipping the Classroom” and in-person environments are really the best of both worlds because students receive the benefit of face-to-face interaction with more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. 

“Flipping the Classroom” consists of a combination of online learning using simulations, videos, and forums in addition to small group differentiated instruction facilitated by the teacher. These instructional methods are appealing to digital natives.

Need some tips on how to engage students in a 21st century way? Check out these resources! 

1. In the classroom, I use video clips from Discovery Education and Safari Montage to “Ignite Learning”. Our school district pays for an annual subscription to these websites.

Unfortunately, students do NOT have access to Discovery Education videos at home. Therefore, I post videos on my classroom website from Khan Academy, TeacherTube, and Vimeo, which engages students at home for FREE.

Khan Academy (khanacademy.org) is a non-profit educational organization providing video tutorials and interactive exercises for a variety of subjects and grade levels. Their Virtual Teacher Workshop demonstrates how to create classes, manage students, collect data, and provide feedback and much more.

TeacherTube (teachertube.com) is a video sharing website similar to, and based on, YouTube. Teachers can also view audio, documents, photos, and blogs. Teachers can register and upload files for students or parents. Teachers can also upload students’ videos in order celebrate their work. 

Vimeo (vimeo.com) is another popular video sharing and social networking site. A community of professionals knows it for high-qualilty videos. It has a cleaner layout with no advertisements.

2. I facilitate the use of the Internet in order to have students conduct research, collaborate with classmates, and establish an online classroom presence. Students enjoy their time posting comments to a blog or on a social media site.

For my classroom blog, I use Google Blogger (blogger.com). Students can also create their own blog in order to show and present their work.

Blogger allows users to chose from different artistic templates. It also has widgets that users can use anytime to insert HTML codes, pictures, slideshows, links, videos, and much more.  

Edmodo (edmodo.com) is a secure social media site accessible through a code you generate in order to invite students. Teachers of all grade levels are using Edmodo to post assignments and allow student discussion.

Students can also upload assignments, take quizzes, and receive alerts. This is an excellent resource for sharing content with students while keeping them socially engaged.  

3. Graphic organizers, diagrams, and other tools can help focus student learning depending on the topic. This allows the teacher to have more time to assist students with work during class time and provides more opportunities for review at home.

Quizlet (quizlet.com) allows teachers to create flashcards to help students’ remember and study vocabulary. There are also study tools and educational games for students to use.

Teachers can choose from the library of flashcards already made by others. There are six study modes, 18 languages, and it is very easy to share on a classroom website.

InstaGrok (instaGrok.com) is a great tool because it allows students to visually research a topic. Students use a graphical map that shows how concepts connect using key facts, links, images, and videos. 

InstaGrok allows teachers to monitor students’ research and note-taking activity. Up to 200 students can be linked to your teacher dashboard. 

4. There are many ways to create a flipped classroom. Teachers need a “Face of the Classroom” in order to provide a location to share these online learning resources with students and parents.

Weebly (education.weebly.com) is perfect for creating classroom websites and student e-portfolios. This resource allows teachers and students to express themselves using a variety of multimedia tools.

Weebly consists of an easy to use drag and drop website editor. Teachers can protect all student websites with a password in just one click.   

Remind (remind.com) is a communication tool that helps teachers connect instantly with students and parents. They receive it as a text message or e-mail.

Teachers can also send photos, documents, and links. This is an excellent way to effectively communicate the resources available on your “flipped classroom” website.

My technology goal this school year is to integrate more blended learning tools into our classroom. Look at these Flipping Tools being used in the Chippewa Valley Schools (click here). 

This post was published by Corwin Connect (click here) and Michigan Education Voice Fellowship (click here). In a listen and learn style for the theme of innovative models for teaching and learning, it was presented at the 2013 Get SMART and 2014 Shaking Up Learning Conferences (Sponsored by Rochester Community Schools and Chippewa Valley Schools) 

In 2015, it was also presented to teaching professionals at the Kansas School for the Deaf and Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference. This information was selected to be presented at the Michigan Digital Learning Conference on October 14th.   

Many of the ideas in this post were taught to me at the Macomb Intermediate School District. The workshop series was titled "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works".  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Role of Standardized Testing

How do statewide standardized assessments benefit students? Are they necessary? 

Teachers need tests to determine if students have learned what was expected of them and if it is the right time to move on to the next objective. 

The data gathered from tests identifies areas of difficulty, which can help teachers adjust instruction for subsequent cohorts of students. Tests show teachers, which students are achieving, and the instructional strategies that are effective. Results from standardized tests can help inform educational policy, school improvement, or instructional practice and develop an action plan.

There are socioeconomic issues such as the inequalities in school funding between wealthy and impoverished areas, which can have an impact on student achievement and test results. 

Standardized tests are just one of the many markers of progress, and alternative assessments such as observations, performance tasks, or portfolios should also be used by teachers. Results from alternative assessments can be more effective in communicating outcomes. 

Standardized tests can be used to observe changes in student test scores over a year in order to inform the public of an improvement or decline in student achievement.  The standardized tests can also be used as a tool to compare certain schools within the same district because they are similar in socioeconomics. 

However, one thing our state’s elected leaders can’t continue to do is place such an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.  Instead, we must focus our energy on empowering all students to care and understand the importance of obtaining a quality education. 

The goal of using data produced by standardized tests is to extract a correlation between the knowledge of the student and the effectiveness of the teacher. 

However, there is not a reliable learning assessment resource available to measure the different impact of each. According to Steve Cook, Michigan Education Association President, "We can't use unreliable data to judge teachers and school districts".

Besides the effectiveness of the teacher, the knowledge of the student is also affected by social factors such as student apathy, peer relations, poverty, and parent involvement. 

Standardized tests should not be on the cutting edge of education because it promotes teaching to the test, which can be counterproductive and dehumanizing.

Tests cannot be the only assessment used to help with the evaluating, rating, and ranking of schools, teachers, and school systems. 

The toxic environment of standardized testing is causing teachers to consider leaving the profession because of the increase in pressure, wasted time, and negative impact on the classroom. Standardized testing has eroded student learning time, while doing nothing to shed light on the achievement gaps between schools. 

In 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) doubled the number of standardized tests. Unfortunately, standardized testing does not solve our problems and has not increased student achievement (National Academy of Sciences, 2011). 

According to the 2015 Phi Delta Kappa Gallup Poll, the public is opposed to the emphasis on standardized testing. Alternative assessments should be used to provide a more accurate reflection of student achievement.  

There are many factors that impact student achievement in schools, including measures like student attendance, access to advanced courses, and school discipline policies. These all need to be considered.  

According to Diane Ravitch, Education Historian and Policy Analyst, "Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine on standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds". Thank you Michigan Department of Education for listening to teachers demanding less time testing students and more time for learning. 

Versions of this op-ed were published in the Oakland Press and Macomb Daily Open Opinion Forum, Michigan Education Association Members Speak Blog, and Stuff Dudes Like. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law

I'm writing to express my opposition to Senate Bills 1, 2 and 3, which would repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law and lower the wages of workers across our state.

The law helps ensure we have qualified workers available to fill skilled trades positions, and supports the education of skilled trades necessary to keep Michigan men and women working efficiently and safely.

Revenue created through voluntary agreements between employees and employers help provide the best schooling and apprenticeship programs in Michigan, giving young people the skills they need to fill good paying jobs.  If the prevailing wage law ends, those programs will be eliminated, Michigan will have fewer skilled workers and lower pay for working men and women.

Taxpayers get good value on public works projects with prevailing wage because they ensure projects are completed with high quality by highly-trained workers – from Michigan. Studies of states that have ended prevailing wage laws show they have not saved taxpayers on construction costs.

Without prevailing wage laws, we risk losing local tax dollars to out-of-state contractors and businesses.

Let’s keep good jobs and trained workers in Michigan.

I urge our Senators to vote no on Senate Bills 1, 2 and 3 and any other measure that undermines prevailing wage in Michigan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teacher Evaluations and Why You Need a Voice

What makes a high quality teacher? Organization, relationships, content knowledge, pedagogy, or test scores.

Who decides? School of Education, State, District, or Principal. Teachers  and advocacy groups should also be involved in the decision-making process.

Teachers need to create a welcoming environment where students are engaged in the curriculum. Everyone seems to have their own observation stories. What have your experiences been like as teachers and administrators?

Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness was formed in June 2011 and spent 6 million dollars to setup a pilot evaluation plan. The council disbanded in 2013 unfinished and with no legislative action.

SB 103 allows local control with no state model for evaluations. Simple rules include two observations with teacher feedback within 30 days where one of which is not scheduled. The evaluation plan must be published to the district website. Thats It!

GOOD Evaluations = Teacher Growth. Our students deserve a GOOD Evaluation System. Teachers and administrators need to share WHY SB 103 needs improvements. Teachers need to help other teachers improve their practice.

Bad Evaluations = Good Teachers Leave. Without our voices some of our best teachers will head to greener pastures. Good teachers want effective, constructive feedback and positive relationships with their administrators.

How to raise your voice? Use social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), blog, encourage others to share their voice, talk to legislators about concerns, and write for news outlets. Join the conversation at #MIEval.

Our Schools, Our Voice Coalition in Los Angeles wants test scores to be part of teacher evaluations. See the graph below:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reflection: Michigan Educator Voice Policy Training

How does this benefit students? As an education professional, I have been constantly asking this question. I started sharing my education experiences through speaking engagements, op-ed articles, and blog entries.  

Sometimes, we are changing too much in education too quickly. We need to focus our attention better. 

We need to make sure every decision we make benefits the students in our schools. It is hard for educators to be passionate about change when there is often no sustainability in the programs. 

We need teachers to challenge certain changes that may not benefit students. I choose to grow personally and professionally. 

However, sometimes change is not necessary for growth. Sometimes, we would experience more growth if we just worked on improving our current programs through collaboration.

I quickly learned that I was not the only one who was frustrated with certain education issues and changes in Michigan. My education stories are written for colleagues, students, and parents who do not always have the opportunity to share their opinions.  

The American Achieves Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship has taught me strategies for engaging policymakers. The issue in education that I care about most and feel most prepared to talk about is tackling student apathy. 

This includes preparing students to be employed in a career field based on their developed passions and critical thinking. I want to ask policymakers to promote other career field options besides four year universities such as community college, military, trade school, and starting your own business. 

My friend, we will call him "Bob", was pushed to go to a four year university without knowing and being too young or immature to understand his passions good enough to choose a career field. "Bob" took on thousands of dollars in student loan debt, changed his major multiple times, and ended up dropping out of a four year university without a degree. 

To make progress on this issue, I would need to influence responsible leaders within our local and state governments and universities through tactics such as round tables, town halls, and school visits. The stakeholders that I could engage to make progress on this issue include parents, advocacy groups, and the Michigan Department of Education.   

Our Michigan Merit Curriculum requires a form of algebra 2 for every student. Is this necessary? We need more dual enrollment programs with local community colleges to get every student career ready. 

Media Savvy: The "How To" of Op-Eds and Blogs 

Communication Skills: Your voices and story matters - Be Heard!

The Big Three of Communications:

What is the news? Big Idea.
Why does it matter? Know/Invest your audience! In-school story + big picture/news.
Who cares? Who does this affect? What is the emotional pull?

Intimidated or Nervous? That's normal.

Helpful hints: Be solutions orientated. Establish your credibility. Know your audience. Acknowledge concerns. Build a bridge. Take the high road. Don't get personal. Don't take things personally.  Do be respectful. Ignore bad behavior in the comments section. Bring the good news.

When writing the op-ed or blog, timing matters. It is essential to connect to a trending event or topic.

Get editing help. Stick to their word limit, which is usually 500-700 words or 200 words for a Letter to the Editor.

Contact, connect, and build supportive relationships with editors (and education reporters). Follow up. If you haven't heard back in 4-6 business day, reply in the same email thread, and reattach the op-ed.

If it doesn't get published, don't be discouraged!

Do you have ideas for improving schools in Michigan? If so, click here

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reflection: Why Teach

What it Means and Takes to be a 21st Century Teacher 

"I am not a teacher but an awakener." - Robert Frost

"Teachers have the most important job of anyone today." - George Lucas

Teachers matter. It's a highly rewarding and fulfilling profession. Teachers share valuable information and important skills to encourage a love of learning that will serve children the rest of their lives. 

Teachers are committed to making a positive impact on the future of each child they serve on a daily basis. 

There's a career for every passion. The education field is not always what I envisioned when I was in college. However, I am still motivated to get up each morning and serve students in our nation's schools. Being a role model and teaching students the skills and knowledge they need beyond the classroom is extremely inspiring, rewarding, and motivating. It is an excellent time to be a teacher. You have to love what you do in order to be successful. This gives us courage to meet our goals. Today's teachers need perseverance, passion, and hope. I pray that my teaching has a positive influence on my students and school.

The math, reading, and writing skills I developed as a student has allowed me to become a successful teacher. Playing sports and being involved in student government taught me valuable life lessons on teamwork, time management, and responsibility. Teachers helped me get to where I am today by providing me with an exceptional education. 

As a student, I learned the benefits of getting along with people from different cultures, which continues to assist me in my career, especially when I traveled to New Zealand for a teacher exchange program. My passions for public speaking, fitness, and volunteering have provided inspiration for my future. 

There were many educators that had a positive influence on my life. They encouraged me to explore my curiosities, supported me with my struggles, and celebrated my successes. They cared about me, my learning, my life, and they wanted me to find happiness within myself in order for me to be capable of helping others. They inspired me and pushed me to be my best in the classroom and on the athletic fields. I am now trying to pay this positive influence forward to my students.

For me, the motivation to teach has always come from the students in my classroom. It is essential to make lesson plans interesting in order to get students motivated about learning. There needs to be interaction between students. Moving around the room as I teach, keeping a smile, and being expressive has made a difference in my instruction. Students need constant positive feedback in order to inspire them to strive for success. I want to inspire my students to fight poverty, choose kindness, act on climate change, and recycle in order to save the environment. 

I am dedicated to inspire the growth mindset within my students.

I teach with confidence and skill while staying true to my voice.

I have taught thousands of students, from beginner to advance. I am proud to be a teacher.

National Education Association's Teacher Appreciation Week is May 4th - 8th. Recognize and celebrate the importance and contributions of educators.  

Thank a teacher for their hard work and dedication to our students. Being a teacher is not easy, especially in this day and age.  

Ensuring Teachers Remain in the Profession

When I graduated from Oakland University's School of Education and Human Services, I felt knowledgeable and ready to have a positive impact on future students. 
The required field placements and internships provided me with work experience that helped me make decisions about my future career. I learned that I wanted to teach middle school science, not kindergarten. The study habits I developed as an undergraduate helped me with success in graduate school. 

There were definitely challenges I faced in my early years of teaching, such as how to do project-based learning, facilitate classroom discussions, and use technology effectively. A strong teaching internship experience and great mentoring programs have helped me become a successful teacher. Forging ahead on my own determination when the going got tough was essential. The wisdom that I gained with setting up classroom procedures and managing class time would benefit a newer teacher. 

Educators entering the profession need to deal with the challenges and successes of teaching through developing a positive mentor-mentee relationship. These types of relationships are necessary to help retain our top teachers and support new teachers as they come into the profession. Better, high-quality professional development is also the answer and can be achieved with extensive, easily accessible support. There is something inherent about the teaching profession that is driving teacher's away, and the nature of internships, or lack thereof, in teacher education programs impacts retention. We must reclaim the agenda. 

The Top 5 Lessons I Have Learned in My Position in Public Education   

1. Be persistent. Never give up on students, parents, and colleagues. Everyone is in this together, and it truly takes a village to educate a child properly.
2. Be open-minded. Listen to other people and their opinions. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Communication is essential. 
3. Think positive. There is a lot of negativity out in the world, especially within the field of education. You need to have a positive outlook in order to combat all of the negativity.
4. Try different roles until you find your niche. Spend time with different people and in various extracurricular activities. Use your hobbies and passions as a guide.
5. Always want to learn. Whether it is a new technology or a new teaching strategy, teachers are life-long learners. We need to be learning alongside our students and show how passionate we are in seeking knowledge.

The Future of Public Education: 5 Snapshots of Modern Day Teaching in the 21st century

Being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs one could ever love. Teachers make a difference in the lives of students, parents, colleagues, and the community. The field of education is changing for the better. 

1. Currently, there is a focus on Depths of Knowledge Levels 3 and 4 in order to get students to critically think and apply what they are learning. Teachers are trying to make learning rigorous and relevant. They facilitate instruction rather than always being the deliverer. The students know the learning objectives.  

2. Digital technology makes learning personalized, engaging, and fun for students. Emerging trends with digital technology includes Web 3.0 and Anticipatory/Artificial Intelligence. Teachers need to have the trust, passion, and drive to use digital technology in their classrooms. They must be adaptable to learn new teaching techniques in order to meet student needs.

3. Teachers’ focusing on career readiness is essential. New jobs today require high Lexile levels. The English-Language Arts (ELA) teachers cannot do it alone. There is a laser-like focus on literacy because high Lexile scores equates to higher scores in other subjects such as math.   

4. Data analyses, such as growth models, are being used in teacher evaluations. The future is common core with smarter balanced testing. Our school uses the NWEA Map assessment to test for learning and literacy. Teachers are also giving their own assessments to monitor student growth.

5. Teachers are also responsible for a student’s personal development. Students are taught how to behave rather than just being punished. The student/teacher relationship is critical, and the focus is on student needs. Teachers cannot let students fail.

In addition to these five snapshots, issues such as poverty, student apathy, and lack of parent involvement should be considered when thinking about the future of public education. Other countries choose which kids go to school. In the United States, we allow all kids to go to a school with high expectations. This has an affect when comparing our schools to those of other countries. 

Change the picture of poverty with Communities in Schools of Michigan. Click here for more information. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CCSS: 4th Grade Math - The Relationship Between Multiplication and Division

Common Core State Standard: Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.

Specific Objectives: Using base-10 blocks and calculators, students will determine how multiplication and division are interrelated through building, drawing, and explaining.

Vocabulary Terms:
Division (to divide): sharing or grouping a number into equal parts.  
Dividend: The number being divided.
Divisor: A number that will divide the dividend exactly.
Quotient: The result of division. 
Multiplication (to multiply): A mathematical operation where a number is added to itself a number of times. 
Factor: A whole number that multiplies with another number to make a third number.  
Product: The result when two numbers are multiplied.

Materials needed by Teacher: Paper for drawings, base-10 blocks, placemats, colored pencils, mini basketball and net.

Materials needed by Student: Paper for drawings, base-10 blocks, placemats, colored pencils, and calculators.

Plan A
      • Introduce multiplication and division with literature connection (5 min.).
      • Discuss prior knowledge by having students share what they know about multiplication and division. (5 min.)
      • Have students find a partner; pass out base-10 blocks, placemats, and calculators. (5 min.)
      • Use the overhead to model how to build, draw, and solve multiplication and division questions. Explain each step to students. (10 min.)
      • Provide questions for students: 11 × 4, 17 × 22, 23 × 34, 18 ÷ 3, 32 ÷ 4. Have each student draw their own replica of what they built with the base-10 blocks. Have students explain their process after they complete each question. (15 min.)
      • Assess students by observing and collecting their drawings, and asking questions for understanding during the activity. Have them check answers using calculators.
      •  Review this concept by playing “Basketball Math”. Split the class into two teams. Set two desks up with the base-10 blocks and placemats.
      • Call the first two-team members to the desks. Give them a multiplication or division problem and have them build. The first one with the correct answer is invited to the free throw line to take a shot for a point. The team with the most points at the end wins. (20 min.)
      • Encourage students to practice the concept by teaching someone at home.
Plan B
      • To extend to a higher level of thinking, give students division questions where the quotient has a remainder.
      • Have students build, draw, and explain their answers to the question. Have them check their answers with a calculator. (15 min.)
      • Have students create their own definition of a remainder based on their observations. (5 min.)
      • Play “Basketball Math.” (20 min.)
Plan C
      • To simplify, show students how multiplication is actually repeated addition and how division is grouping a number into equal parts. Use graphic organizers on the whiteboard for a visual. (10 min.)
      • Ask multiplication and division questions using single digits. Have students build, draw, and explain their answers to the question. Have them check their answers with a calculator. (15 min.)
      • Play "Basketball Math." (20 min.)

Discussion and Closure with Students: Answer any of the students’ questions. Make sure that they understand the concept. Have them draw a picture of an object that they own being multiplied or divided. (10 min.) 

Published in the December 2014 Edition of the MEA Voice (P. 20)