This past year has been a learning experience for me. My classroom was chosen to be an implementation classroom for a 1 to 1 iPad environment. I was so thrilled and nervous at the same time. I kept telling myself, I had done my homework - I was ready. And for the most part, I was. As with everything, there was a learning curve. At first I went through a stage where I thought it was all about the apps. That was OK for a little bit, but then I asked myself, "are my students truly learning and being challenged?" I didn't want the iPads to be thought of as devices for "playing," rather they were tools for learning. It was then, that my whole outlook started to change. I realized that I had been given a great gift and really needed to figure out how to effectively utilize the devices in a way that would positively impact student achievement.
I took a look at the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for students: http://www.iste.org/standards.aspx as well as the revised Digital Blooms: http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy. I realized that by just using apps for game based learning, my students were working on the opposite end of the spectrum from where I wanted them to be. They were "remembering and understanding" and I wanted them to be "creating and evaluating." This was the first big shift. I started having my students do more creating on the iPad and then evaluating each others' work. We created eBooks, videos, picture journals, etc. They reflected on Edmodo and commented on each others' posts. Many of these things I will continue to use and expand on in my classroom in the coming years... but I want more.
I have been reading up on and talking to people about Challenge Based Learning (aka: Project Based Learning). I have included a link to the Apple site which has a fairly comprehensive overview on CBL: https://challengebasedlearning.org/pages/about-cbl. I just finished reading a book by Ron Berger called "An Ethic of Excellence" which I highly recommend. I already have some ideas for projects/challenges that I want to undertake with this coming year's class which I'm really excited about. I will keep you up to date with how things are going as the projects roll themselves out!
At the end of each school year I do a small happy dance of victory. I'm not sure why, but I'm always - ALWAYS - surprised and impressed at how much my students grow during the course of a year. This is one reason I love teaching second grade. My students come in as tiny first graders at the beginning of the year. Then, after countless hours of hard work and tremendous effort on their part, the end of the year arrives and they are ready to leave me and begin their lives in third grade.
Now, when I say that my students grow, I mean this quite literally. This past year I had a student who grew a full 3.5 inches during the course of the year! Of course, they grow in other ways too. They learn to work collaboratively, sharing ideas and their own passion for learning. I watch as their personalities come to life, each one so different from the next. My students teach me so much about life and learning over the course of a year, and I thank them for that.
My classroom gets packed up so the floors can be waxed and I head home for the summer. I kicked off the summer right this year. My family came down to visit from WI, and we all vacationed together to Charleston. That lasted for one glorious week. I always give a small chuckle (oh, who am I kidding - usually it's a hearty laugh) when I hear someone comment on how nice it must be to have the summers completely free. I am looking at my calendar. There are 17 days that I will be either at school for some necessary purpose, or in some sort of district training/meeting for school related things. This doesn't count the few days I'll go into school just to "get some things done." In addition to the days spent at school, I have posted a picture of what my couch looks like right this second. What you are looking at are some of the things I've been working on this summer (this website being one of them). I don't say these things to complain. On the contrary, I actually love it. Friends of mine will attest - I have a hard time turning my brain off. I love this time during the summer where I can clearly reflect on the year and have actual time to make changes for the coming one.
Don't get me wrong. I love a good day at the pool as much at the next person, and rest assured that I will probably read over 10 books "just for fun." I might even squeeze a few movies in there or a day trip to the mall. But if during one of those activities an idea for school strikes me, you'd better believe I'll get my phone out faster than you can say iOS 6, and jot that idea down in Evernote so I can remember to work on it later.
My name is Carrie Gaffney. Someone once asked me a question that remains in the back of my mind and helps to shape my life: "How will you be remarkable?" I am continuously trying to discover new ways to answer that question.