2011-2012 "Take Aways"

I would have to say...2011-2012 has been the Year of Learning. Having gone back into the classroom after spending last year as a technology trainer, I was provided with some real opportunities for exploration, questioning, and seeking of answers. The answers came from students, fellow teachers, administrators, and people literally across the world who are all part of my PLN.

This year I was able to implement many new things and fortunately, my students provided the best feedback for ensuring the most productive means of implementation. So here are a few of my favorite take aways from this year:

Edmodo: This proved to be a very valuable tool that I utilized this year. As the year progressed, I learned a variety of ways to extend learning in my classroom through the use of Edmodo. We used it to manage our class projects by posting resources and links for student use and also for turning projects in through Edmodo. This learning management system provided a great way to have access to all projects and to be able to comment on projects as I graded them. It also allowed the students to see their grades even before they were posted in the gradebook. I believe the tool I loved most in Edmodo was the Quiz tool. All of my tests were administered through Edmodo, online, and as students completed their tests, they received immediate feedback about what they missed and what their grade was. My only complaint here was this tool doesn't have a randomize button or the ability to shift question order, but the people at Edmodo assure me this feature is coming! I also loved how Edmodo has seamlessly integrated certain sites such as Google Docs or Google Drive and Quizlet into their platform; these are tools we used with every unit of study! Edmodo provided a great platform for collaboration and connectivity for my students. They helped one another even when I wasn't available. This spring Edmodo launched an app store and I was fortunate enough to be able to pilot this launch. My students made some GoAnimate videos covering Leading Causes of the Civil War. I was shocked at the creativity and depth of knowledge those videos exhibited. I can't wait to explore this more next year.

BYOD: This year our district launched a Bring Your Own Device initiative; however, due to budget cuts, there was no piloting of this or best practices training for teachers...so, I dove in and developed my own. Don't get me wrong, I was continually researching and consulting members of my PLN. We front loaded the curriculum with probing questions students had to respond to before a lesson, they used devices for copies of the notes posted online, they used devices for participation in social media type activities such as participating in the Battle of the Alamo while watching the video clip, and collaborating on projects and activities using Today's Meet, Type With Me, and Google Docs. They went on scavenger hunts using QR Codes matching correct vocabulary terms with their definitions. They used Socrative for formative assessments and team-based review games. I will say, it took developing a BYOD culture within the classroom for students to see the value in these devices as tools for learning...it didn't just happen. But by the end of the year, I had more and more students bringing in their own devices, even those with few resources, because they began to see the value in having one.

My last major area of learning revolves around Google. I was fortunate to be selected to attend the Google Teacher Academy in London this past April and I was amazed at the tools available to educators through Google Apps for Education. Of course I was also excited about becoming a Google Certified Teacher! Last summer I created a new class website using Google Sites in preparation for the BYOD initiative. I wanted a class website that would be mobile friendly. In fact, that is what I love most about the Google products! We kind of played around with a class blog using Blogger this year, but that is something I will definitely expand on next year. Being able to have the students post to a class blog from their smartphone is amazing! Another great option Google now provides is the addition of Youtube Edu! They have created a filtered YouTube for educators and the quality of the content is amazing. This will really open the door to some quality content for flipping a classroom that will allow for  more effective implementation.

Well, these were my big 3 for the year. There were more, but these were definitely my biggest take aways. As I have continued interacting on Twitter, following my favorite blogs, and reading books such as Teaching Generation Text, I have definitely come to realize, if you aren't seamlessly integrating technology in a meaningful way into your curriculum, you are shortchanging your students and not preparing them for the world they will be entering beyond your classroom. How we do education has changed because our students have changed, our world has changed...have you? What have been your big take aways this year? I'd love to have you share!
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