Friday, October 31, 2014

Technology (and School) Update

     The school year is doing what it usually does--zooming by. At my school, we're almost halfway into our second block (out of six) and I still feel incredibly behind in what I want to accomplish. The learning targets I've set for myself this year have been high, but achievable. Despite the busyness, I have seen some progress towards those targets which include integration of new technologies into my classes.
      One way I'm accomplishing this is by continuing the digital magazine concept I started at the end of last year. It will be done by the end of this block. This has been an incredible learning experience for all the students and also for me. Would I do something like this again? In a heartbeat!
Digital magazine created by students

     Another area of progress is in class offerings. A few years ago I developed a project-based class, approved by the district, which would allow me to offer students a chance to answer a problem or address a problem they saw in the schools or community. I haven't taught the class lately; however, after a recent conversation with my principal, I think I may be teaching it next block. In anticipation of that, and with two colleagues from the other two high schools in town (one of whom will teach this class next year), I am meeting with someone from our local college about innovation and getting students engaged in problem-solving.
     I'm looking forward to this meeting for a few selfish reasons. One, I ome up with better ideas when I work with others. Not sure why, but my brain works better when it's not stuck by itself. The second reason is the meeting itself. I'm anticipating the conversation and gleaning information from the professor. Our college has a Center for Innovation and an Entrepreneurship Program which are pretty cool places if you like that sort of thing. I think the job the director has done in developing this program and expanding it and integrating it across campus is amazing. It's a model that other curricular areas could plagiarize. Our med school does so successfully, which is pretty cool, too.
     One thing I'm doing this year that I've not done before is teaching an enriched English class. I have a few students who expressed interest in taking an advanced English class. We've never offered such a thing at my alternative high school, but if I have students who want to learn at a deeper level...well, I can't say no to that. This class has required quite a bit of time to develop, but I know it will be worth it.
     Another bright spot has been the ACT review. Students look forward to that and we've had some good discussions about the test and what they can expect. We'll be starting the writing portion of the review soon, which will be a good exercise for my students.
     Finally, I've been able to integrate a bit more technology into classes. The tech partner at my school told me about a timeline generator that I've had some of my film students use. They developed a timeline on the history of technological advancements in film and LOVED using the online program. Once finished, we discussed what they learned which was so much MORE than I could have hoped they would have absorbed from a boring discussion led by me. It was the enthusiasm with which they participated that kind of blew me away. Once again, it only reinforced my belief that hands-on, student-led learning works.
      So, school life has kept me busy. And busy is good. It's a continual learning process as a teacher. Learning to step out of the norm and experiment with new ideas. Learning to accept the failures as well as the successes of those ideas.  Learning how much to take on in a school year and still be effective as a teacher. Learning to trust my kids and give them the latitude to try new things, even things that are a bust.
     So even though the school year is zooming by and I've been busy, that's not a bad thing. What's important is that my students and I go to school where we all learn together. And that is a good thing. A very good thing.

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