One of the greatest advantages of today’s technology is the power of connection. If we weren’t aware of it before the Covid19 pandemic, we are now. As a teacher in a rural Missouri high school, I always look for ways to expand the world for my students. Our community is small and is very supportive of our students, and while I bring in guest speakers from the community each year and value what they can offer my students, technology allows me to broaden our definition of community.
From the time I became very aware of what my parents did for a living, I firmly decided that I did not want to follow in their educational footsteps. They worked too hard for too little compensation for all the time and effort they spent on their work, students, and school. They were outstanding educators (my dad retired as an elementary principal, and my mom retired as a psychological examiner for an educational cooperative). In college, as I considered my major area of study and degree options, Dad pointed out that careers define where we live.
Students develop a sense of belonging when they feel accepted, respected, included, supported and see themselves as important members of a community. I knew esports has the power to reach those students who normally slip through the extracurricular cracks, so when my good friends, Jeff and Elizabeth Wofford, approached me about starting an esports club and team at school this year, I didn’t hesitate, because I believe that helping students connect and belong at school improves overall school culture.
As educators, we know how important family is to student success, and having been remote learning at home for three months, a summer at home feels the same as school — the role of parents as teachers may have even strained the family dynamic a bit. Even if you can’t go on a big vacation, we know students and families need renewal, change, and to just recharge after a tough end to the school year. Now that thoughts of vacation for many of us have bubbled to the surface, we face another challenge.
As our 2020 second semester turned into distance learning during the Covid19 pandemic, many of us found ourselves overturned in the middle of the creek, clinging to a paddle with one arm slung across the canoe to keep our heads above the water. But now that summer is upon us, we have been able to upright our canoe, toss in both paddles, and climb back into it. While the direction we will be taking this fall is still unclear, we can look back at what worked and what didn't during the school closures. There were definitely many things we did not do well, but we did shine in one particular area: connecting guardians and our school remotely.
On Wednesday of remote learning week two, I notice my son has hair growing on his upper lip. When did that happen? I vaguely remember him saying he was shaving, but I clearly didn't believe him. My post isn't really about mustaches and eighth graders. Like many parents world-wide, this shift has been stressful for me. I wear many hats in my district, and this time of school closure has increased my workload. I feel the anxiety and stress creeping in the minute I wake up and ponder my "to do" list. Sound familiar?
So while I am always on the lookout for ways to bring the latest technology into my classroom, my goal is not to just bring tech to my students. My pedagogy guides my use of tech, and recently, my use of spoons. Helping students practice mastery in an engaging way is always my goal. One morning in my first hour Spanish class, I contemplated student interests and how I might leverage that for our Friday Fun day.
My top performing post by far debuted in January, 2018, and deals with how to use the new Google Sites for blogging while combining it with Google Classroom to provide our students with the authentic audience they need and the feedback via comments that are still safe. Since then, I've opened up the platforms to include Adobe Spark Page and Wakelet, giving my high school students control over which platform they prefer, but I still sitesmash (like an app smash...but with websites) with Google Classroom to give me the control over the comments that I prefer.
It’s that time of year when the winter blues hit, sunlight is not always a constant presence, and the days seem longer and drearier. Coming back from the winter break can be tough for some students, and keeping their momentum going for attending school and keeping up with their classwork can be a challenge.
As a high school English and Spanish teacher, I am always on the lookout for tools that will help my students be creative, demonstrate knowledge and learning, and then also result in products that can be shared. The latest tool like this that I have explored for students is Buncee. Like any tool I explore with students, I am always looking for versatility.