Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21, 2013

It’s a great time to be a teacher!

As I walked through the front doors of the school on this chilly November morning, I didn’t anticipate this to be a day more remarkable than any other.  And surely, as I rushed from one class to the next, I could easily have passed it off as “just another day.”  Certainly this was just one day, in a school year filled with many.  And while there will be days both better and worse as the year continues, taking a moment to reflect on this one seems to be in order.  I often proclaim the importance of promoting the positive and celebrating successes… and in this one ordinary day there were many.

Before the first bell had even rung, students were in my room asking for help in loading their iBooks Author history projects on to multiple iPads so that students could view and interact with their content while they presented it to the class. They proceeded to demonstrate via AirPlay what they had created. This all in a history class where the teacher knew nothing about iBooks or iBooks Author, but yet encourages his students’ creative freedom by giving them choice in the content they create. Not only did they demonstrate their curricular knowledge in innovative ways, but also spread the excitement for new technology and diminished the fear of learning new things.  This grassroots approach has proved especially successful for the faculty at O’Neill Public Schools and it was encouraging to see it in full force this morning. 

Also during first period, two high school seniors requested help in setting up an interview with a panel of officials from our state senator’s office.  They were scheduled to drive three and a half hours to our state capital of Lincoln, but the weather was less than favorable.  In order to complete their scheduled interviews in the application process for the Naval and Air Force Academies, they used Skype and a quiet room.  They were able to successfully complete the interviews and avoid the dangerous and time-consuming drive. 

Second period each day brings English 8 and a room full of 26 teenage writers.  To accompany a journal prompt referencing the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, we clicked on a link to a Google Hangout where a JFK historian was showing students the Dealey Plaza and Sixth Floor of the Book Depository Building live from downtown Dallas.  In the conversation that ensued, students shared their lack of knowledge about this fateful day in history.  A quick YouTube search resulted in the sharing of the Zapruder film, and many intrigued young historians were inspired to learn more than any assignment I had given them in the last several weeks. 

During 3rd period I was delighted to help a third grade class doing research on our community for their reading unit.  Each young student used an iPad or iPod touch to capture a personal interview with a community member who grew up in O’Neill.  I helped aggregate the videos into one place and facilitated the recording of a few more so that scripts can be written prior to the creation of a class video. 

4th period students worked asynchronously in an online forum to exchange peer reviews of their latest writing projects.  Collaborative groups consist of students from four different schools and four varying age levels.  

Following lunch I connected for a few minutes to a live UStream from “Rock Our World’s” Family Night celebration.  Having participated with students in the past, it was exciting to view classrooms all over the world sharing their work from this latest round of global collaboration. 

Next I tuned in to a live stream from the White House as President Obama honored ten teachers as “Champions of Change,” two of which are my Apple Distinguished Educator friends.  Amazing, indeed!

I spent some time in a freshman English classroom.  They have been transforming their creative writing into multimedia masterpieces with the help of some iPad apps.  Students once again were teaching the teacher: self-directed, creative learning at its finest.  One of the unanswered problems that arose stumped me as well.  As soon as I could, I emailed the app developer and explained the problem several students were having with the app “Puppet Pals 2”.  Before the day was even over, the app developer emailed us back. Not only did he express his appreciation of our helping find a bug, but also he pushed out an update to the app so it wouldn’t happen again!  

The afternoon was far from complete.  With each question, contact, or request came another discovery or celebration.  Setting up Google apps accounts for this year’s 4th graders for an upcoming collaborative project.  Helping a 5th grade Science teacher create a self-grading quiz with Google forms and Flubaroo.  Receiving a student project via Airdrop to be published on our “Student Sharing Gallery” a.k.a. YouTube Channel. Or even just the random iPhone camera capturing the escapade of a junior high band student who accidentally lost her retainer in her tuba.  Every moment enhanced by technology.  Every opportunity, every thought process, every “teachable moment” enriched far beyond what may have once seemed even possible.

Some may say our lives are consumed by technology.  But I will forever attest to the fact that they are accentuated by it. 

Not bad for a day’s work as a technology integrationist.  And the best thing is— tomorrow will be a whole new set of adventures, discoveries, and opportunities. 

It is an INCREDIBLE time to be a teacher!

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