Fun with GHO

So today I met up with my co-presenters for the Think.Create.Share conference.  We were talking about the student work that we planned to include and how best to share that work with attendees considering the fact that we cannot share outside of our GAFE domain.

But as usual, when getting together with passionate teachers…the topic evolved into a share-faire of new technology tools and how we could use those with colleagues and our students.

First up, GHO.

A couple of us have tried using GHO on a school device using the district wifi.  It seemed to work, but the video lagged here and there.

Today?  It worked beautifully.

The three of us (@PrimoHistory @WHistTeacher) joined a GHO using our GAFE accounts.  Now anyone who knows me knows how much I HATE being on video.  I love that I can turn my camera off during a GHO and just have my profile pic on the screen.  But today amongst my friends I learned how to let go of my fear of being on camera.  In fact, there were even some points in the conversation when I even forgot that I was on video.

When we all first joined in…I shared what I learned about GHOs from last summer’s #edcamphome.  I showed my friends how customize their lower third and explained a bit about Google Effects.  I chose to wear the princess crown which went well with the devil horns from @WHistTeacher.

And then we discovered the Draw tool.

I’m not sure how long we played around with that tool on each other’s pictures, but it offered us a much needed respite from testing and end-of-the-year burnout.  In fact, I don’t think that I’ve laughed that hard at work in awhile.  In hindsight, I should have taken a couple of screenshots of our handy work.

Oh well.  Next time.

While we were laughing and playing around with adding features and text to each other’s faces in GHO, we were also brainstorming about how this tool could be used to foster collaboration with peers.

After all, it’s not just fun and games with us.  We actually do look at the practicality of things.

In fact, earlier this week I was talking with another colleague about the possibility of using GHO to replace a face-to-face PD session.  The conservative nature of my district doesn’t allow for teachers to work “at home”…it’s like we have to be physically present in order to earn a stipend or get credit.  But it’s that kind of mind-set that is preventing us from being #FutureReady.  If we’re on video…and “they” can see us…then why do we have to be physically present in a meeting?  Any seasoned teacher knows that students can be physically present in the classroom and not hear one thing that the teacher is saying.  Being physically present does not equate to active participation.  But in a GHO…if a participant is on camera then there’s not much difference where the participant is in a physical sense.

I can see the power and usefulness behind using GHO for PDs and collaboration.  First, it would allow teachers to meet with content area peers who teach at a different school.  No longer should a singleton art teacher have to sit through a collaboration with other singleton subject-area colleagues who each have a different content specialization.  Second, it would allow more opportunities for vertical collaboration.  How easy would it be to set up a 30 minute GHO to share best practices?  Think about the value of the whole process.  We’d be using a new technology tool and unleveling the PD at the same time.

Sounds good, right?

Challenge Accepted

Challenge Accepted – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires.

My friend Jody Green (@peerlessgreen) challenged me to #makeschooldifferent. So I decided created a HaikuDeck to sum up my thoughts on how I plan to make school different.  But let me clarify on my challenge…

#1 Freedom
Give students the freedom to choose their learning journey.  Let them choose the path.  Yes we have standards to cover…but why not give students the freedom to choose how they demonstrate mastery of those standards?  Of course they will need guidance, but we need to step aside and get out of their way.   Don’t be an obstacle to their learning.
#2 Rethink
Technology forces us to rethink how we teach, but it’s easy to become complacent in the tech tools that we use.  Switch it up.  Do some app-smashing.  Collaborate with different peers.  Exchange lesson ideas.  Expand your PLN.  But more importantly, be open to new possibilities…even those that may come from students (see #1).  

#3 Slow Down
Teachers often get caught up in pacing guides, fervently rushing to cram important information down the throats of our students and for what?  A standardized test?  Slow down.  Breathe.  Give students time to explore issues that are relevant to them.

#4 Engagement
Who doesn’t want to have fun?  Life is hard enough.  Let’s give students the opportunity to learn in ways that are creative, fun, and engaging.  Tests aren’t fun.  But tests aren’t going away (at least not any time soon).  So why not make learning fun in the process?

#5 Advocate
If we don’t stand up for what’s best for our students, who will?  We can’t rely on politicians and those outside of academia to decide what needs to go on in the classroom.  Teaching is a craft and those of us in the trenches day in and day out know what’s best for our students.  Stand up.  Speak up. 

I challenge my friends Gregg (@tattedteacher), Chris (@mrhousepian), Sarah (@mrshousepian), and Adrian (@teacherlucero).  How would you like to #makeschooldifferent?

What’s Best for the Kids

We are coming to the end of the second week of SBAC and CST testing.  Our schedule has been modified to give students two or three block periods within which they will take the math or ELA portion of the SBAC and the CST science exam.

As a history teacher, I’m not testing.

And that makes me happy.

But what’s really troubling to me is the fact that we have significant numbers of students who are not finishing the SBAC test.  Our school has allocated more than the minimum number of suggested minutes for each test.  We’ve modified our schedule so that instructional time has been equally distributed across the various disciplines.  But the problem that I think we’re going to have is that next week when we’re supposed to be done with SBAC…our students will need to continue to finish portions.

Why is the test taking so long?

Apparently they are going to finish the test in their ELA or math class…the same class in which they were taking the SBAC in the first place.  But this will take away from valuable instruction time.  The ELA and math classes have already lost instructional time to accommodate the SBAC test.

Since I’m not testing and since I’ve only seen practice questions, I can’t say for sure why this test is taking so long to complete.  But I’m wondering why students have to take a test that is so long in the first place.  The attention span of middle school students isn’t very long…they have a difficult time sitting still…their minds are whirling around with various thoughts…and they are freaking out about the changes in their body due to puberty.  So why? Why must they be subjugated to a test that is taken during a 2 1/2 hour block period?  It’s ridiculous.  I’m waiting for one of them to lose their minds when they come to my class after taking a computerized test for 2 1/2 hours.

I don’t blame them for coming to my class mentally exhausted from taking the SBAC.  And our department has done our best to make sure that we plan activities in our history classes that are not necessarily mentally taxing, but most definitely engaging, activities that allow students to talk with each other and get out of their seats.

I understand that the state needs “data” to justify funding for education.  But every year, I feel like the amount and nature of testing is increasing…and that not only takes away from instructional time but I just don’t think that it’s in the best interests of the kids.

I don’t have a solution.

I’m just at a loss.