5 EdTech hacks that changed my life

Sometimes things on the Internet change society…

Take the Rick Roll for example (or just Rick Astley, in general):

giphy

The following Internet-based things (in no particular order) have changed my life as a teacher. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

  1. Hotkeys that open the most recently closed tab in Chrome
  2. Google Docs Explore Tool, formerly known as the Research Tool
  3. Canvas SpeedGrader
  4. YouTube videos at 1.5x speed
  5. Symbaloo

spmkoae

(so keep reading!)

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No Blog Love, but YouTube is growing

Let’s be honest… While I maintain this blog as a personal portfolio, I do have secret aspirations of becoming internet famous. However, I don’t promote it because, frankly my dear, I don’t have the time. That being said, I recently ran across a surprising shout out for my How-To-Flubaroo videos. Sadly, I don’t remember corresponding with the author, but I think that’s because it was from a few years ago. That playlist is up to a couple hundred views.

However, I have one video that continues to garner views, even though I made it three years ago. I made a three-part tutorial on setting up a Google Site as a teacher’s webpage. Ironically, I don’t even use Google Sites anymore, having opted for the improved aesthetics of Weebly this past year. For whatever reason, that video now has over 13K views. I don’t get it…

 

It’s a major award!

I am quite honored to have been selected for the district staff excellence award. My school district has over 10 thousand teachers and 19 thousand employees. I am even more excited about it because my husband got it a couple of years ago and I think it’s awesome that we have both been recognized for our efforts. Most of all, I appreciate the colleagues and students that have congratulated me on it when I least expected it. The greatest award as a teacher is always when you feel appreciated by your students.

An Anticlimactic End

My tenure in the Wagiphyke County Teacher Leader Corps comes to an end today. Three years and 15 workshops later, we are ending with reflecting on our experience. I’ve actually really enjoyed my time in TLC. It has not always been quite what was presented, but I always leave the workshops feeling energized and with new ideas for my classroom just because I get to interact with other enthusiastic educators. I have learned many new things and lots of new tech tools, most of those are documented here on this blog. I don’t know that we were ever able to really implement Dr. Wirt’s original vision, but being a part of this 680-teacher cohort has provided me with more leadership opportunities in my school and in the county. I am glad that I volunteered for this opportunity, if only because I got to work closely with two colleagues at my school that made our training days more enjoyable. It’s going to be weird not having these workshops anymore, but I will be replacing them with the same number of STEM coordinator meetings instead!

Nearly-Paperless Classroom

Nearly Headless? How can you be nearly headless?  – Hermione Granger

Disclaimer: I don’t believe in:

  • a truly paperless classroom
  • technology as gimmickery
  • one [teaching] method to rule them all
  • drill and kill (but practice does make permanent)

I do believe in:

  • not assigning busy work
  • authentic homework assignments
  • saving paper

This year (with only one week until school started) it was decreed that each teacher would have a set number of pages copied per semester (each SIDE counts as one). This number varied by department, but there was no apparent consideration of the number of students, common teaching practices for the subject, etc.

I’ve had to ask my students to print things at home. I’ve moved to lesser testing practices of copying only one class set of tests that students cannot annotate (I came up with giving them a transparency and erasable marker) and cannot keep for future studying. It also fosters cheating because I used to have multiple versions of tests. I’ve done these things because I can’t make copies frivolously. However, I’ve NEVER made copies frivolously. I always try to conserve paper.

That being said, I have found a reason to be thankful for this proclamation. My website traffic is higher than ever before. I’m averaging 70 visitors per day (and I have about 70 students).

Just in the past month:

Classroom Website traffic 10-2014

Classroom Website traffic 10-2014

Even more impressive: in the past year…

Visitors by country. Oct 2013-2014

Visitors by country. Oct 2013-2014

In fact, my classroom website caused me to be headhunted by a local tutoring center and personally asked to review a new study/resource website for science classes by the site’s developer… who lives in the UK. If that’s not proof that I’m impacting people outside of my school, I don’t know what is.

So, thanks for forcing me to become even more paperless than I already was. My website has blown up as a result. The funny thing is, my husband’s math website blows my stats out of the water.

 

Phase one complete… (XP points in the classroom)

On Tuesday, I plan to implement phase two of my goal for my AP Biology students this year, which is for them to take a pile of my resources and learn about a unit almost on their own (constructivist theory, for you psych folks). Granted, there will be checkpoints and various discussions throughout this unit, but I want them to eventually be in charge of their daily tasks, both in and out of the classroom.

Phase one involved incorporating an experience point (XP) system in my grading plan. Students gain experience through various instructional activities, and the sum of these experiences at the end of each unit correlates to a rather hefty (30%) portion of their overall grade. This is the first time I have tried anything like this, but I think it is going well. I have been at a loss the past few years as to getting more of my students personally engaged in the process of learning this extremely cumbersome curriculum. Thus far, I think this is the hardest that I’ve had an AP class work overall. I’m not sure if it’s the students themselves or the XP system. Perhaps, both.

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