"You never know beforehand what people are capable of, you have to wait, give it time, it's time that rules, time is our gambling partner on the other side of the table and it holds all the cards of the deck in its hand..." - José Saramago
SATs... ACTs... GPAs... Digital Portfolios? Move over paper and pencil and make room for a different way for students to showcase mastery of content. More and more colleges and Universities are accepting and reviewing student portfolios as part of their admission process.
You don't have to remind me that I am actually an elementary school teacher. My second grade students barely scratch the surface of standardized testing, and are seemingly years and years away from their college careers - if that is the direction they choose for their lives. What I'm telling you is that I think it is so important for people of all ages today to begin creating and fostering a positive online presence. I read a recent blog post published by the Harvard Business Review called "The Perils of Being a Social Media Holdout." Although the article focuses mostly on the business world, several of the reasons for developing an active online presence have a place in education as well. The authors point out that people will be talking about you whether you choose to participate in the conversation or not, that being invisible instantly makes you less credible, and that choosing not to be active online makes you susceptible to the perception of being behind the curve. Do I want this for my students? No.
I digress. Last year I embarked on a "new" adventure with my students. I used Weebly to create a page for each of my students and had them blog and begin documenting their work. Now that the year is over, I have had time to reflect on the process. When I first began having my students blog, I didn't quite know why. I know we should always begin with the why... I didn't. I began with an idea that I knew was a good one, but I just wasn't quite clear on the reason behind why it was so good. Now I know. I know that, among other things, blogging gives my students a voice and an authentic writing atmosphere. I also know that digital portfolios allow my students to gain confidence while working towards a goal, it shows proof of growth, and it allows them to reflect on their work. If you need help creating student Weebly pages, please view the screencast on THIS page (you'll have to scroll down a bit).
Now that I know why I want my students to blog and keep ePortfolios, I will make some changes for next year. I will help my students become successful, responsible, 21st Century citizens.
How will you do the same?
Holy buckets! Two blog posts in one day. How do I have time to do anything else? Before you start feeling impressed... here is a small taste of today's schedule: wake up, blog about Evernote, eat breakfast, brush teeth, blog about Skype in the Classroom, eat lunch. Eventually I will throw a shower in there. Not impressed anymore? Told you so. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
I think Skype in the Classroom is a great digital resource that people should know about. I ran across this site about a year ago and didn't really take it seriously until a few weeks ago. I have decided that I am going to embark on a Challenge Based Learning project with my class this upcoming year that is focused on recognizing similarities and celebrating differences with people around the nation/globe. To do this, I need to make a few contacts with people from said areas. Hmmm. Bring in the usefulness of Skype in the Classroom. Add that to the power of blogging combined withe the shameless plug (I plan to link this article) on Twitter and I should be able to come up with something. Teachers from all over the world are using Skype to make learning more exciting, memorable, and authentic. Skype offers an immediate way for students to discover new cultures and ideas, all without leaving the classroom. Can anyone say free field trip? Sweet. Here is a video on how to get started.
Here's an article worth reading that lists 10 great ideas for using Skype in your classroom. http://www.edudemic.com/2013/03/10-ways-to-start-using-skype-in-the-classroom/ Or check out this video for some inspiration. Do you already do these things now? I would love to hear about it! If by chance you are interested in connecting with me and my class this upcoming school year, please let me know!
I've been using Evernote for quite some time now, and I have loved it from the very start. I have it on my iPhone, iPad, personal MacBook, and school MacBooks. I use it numerous times EVERY day. The great thing is that what you change on one device will automatically sync to all your other devices! Really, at the very beginning, I was terrible at using Evernote and was certainly not using it to it's fullest potential (OK, honestly, I am still not using it to the fullest potential, but I am much closer!). They might have called the app "Boring Notetaker," or "Grocery List Keeper," or even "To Do List Manager" because those are the things I used Evernote for. I have learned that it can do SO MUCH MORE!
Depending on what you do, Evernote can work differently for you. I teach. I needed to make Evernote work for me throughout my teaching day. The first thing I heard was not to be afraid to create lots of notes or notebooks. Well, let me tell you, I was afraid. I like things to be neat and tidy. I want to be able to find things and know right where they are at. My thinking was, the fewer the notes the better; I will know which note to go to. It'll be great! Whelp, I was wrong. The thing about having only a couple notes was that I had so much in each note that I couldn't find what I was looking for. Eventually I learned how to use "tags." With tags, everything is searchable! I tag my notes with my student's names, project titles, subjects, etc. and I can use the tags search bar to instantly find what I am looking for. This has been invaluable during parent teacher conferences! What's that you say? How do I use it during parent conferences? Let me tell you.
First I need to contact parents to set up conferences. I have an Evernote notebook where I keep all my parent's contact info. Our school has parents fill out student info cards at the beginning of each year. I used to also have them fill out the same info on a different sheet in my classroom. Not anymore. I save parents a step by taking a picture of the office card (directly from the app on my phone/iPad), tag the picture with the student's name, and throw it in a notebook. Then I always have access to the info even if I'm at home. Great right? Once I've got the parents at school I have all this great stuff to show them. I'll tell you about it.
Usually at a conference I would lug out my folder of student work, gradebook, behavior report, attendance sheet, etc. to show parents. I still have these things, but most of what I show them is right on my iPad (which I mirror using either Apple TV or AirServer to my Promethean board). Instead of keeping work to show parents at conferences, I will take a picture of the work, tag it, put it in notebook (see a trend?). Now I can send all work and projects home with students as we go along so parents can always see how their child is doing. I have the picture to refer back to at conference time when we are talking about "grades." I can also show them how they've been progressing in guided reading groups.
This is my favorite use of Evernote. It has completely overhauled the way I plan and keep records for guided reading. I now keep my lesson plans directly in a Guided Reading Lesson Plan Notebook on Evernote. Within the notebook I have notes for each book we read with each group. The group members are tagged in their respective notes for later search-ability. When I give running records I can quickly set my iPad up to record and capture audio of the student reading. This is done directly within the note (using the little microphone icon) and then it places a button right in the note that I can listen to and play back for parents later. This gives me actual examples to show parents of what I see in school of a child's progress.
I am super excited about this final thing (that I hadn't thought about until I saw THIS post)! This is such a ridiculously small thing, but it will make my school life so much easier! Class list checklists. OMG. I use checklists all the time at school: who have I conferenced with in reading and writing workshop; where is each child at in the writing process; roll call for a fire drill; field trips; you get the idea... I have put a picture of what it looks like below. Once I get the official class list for my little friends this year I will type them in the column on the left and I'll be good to go. Excited much? Yes.
So, I still use Evernote to keep track of my To Do Lists, but I use it for so much more than that as well! I hope this post gives you some ideas to manage your own workflow. If you have any questions on how to do any of the things mentioned above,
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.