Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Wonka Vision...for the Educator: My New Teacher Web Site!

Most of us are familiar with this scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka shows the guests a new invention in his factory, "Wonka Vision." I'm sure even Roald Dahl's big imagination could not fathom the true connectedness that the internet would give the world. Though the "wonka vision" technology is fictional, in a way the internet gives us that same accessibility. Think about it, as educators, we can take our life-sized classroom and shrink it into a digital one the size of a laptop, a tablet or smartphone. Recently, I was assigned such a task...

and now I have my very own web site! It was an assignment we had to do for our Educational Technology class. I must say, I am quite pleased with the outcome and am looking forward to customizing it even further in my own classroom and showing it to various principals when I start to apply for teaching positions next year. Check it out here: or by clicking on the screen shot above. Tell me what you think!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is This Lady Really Texting While Teaching?

I subbed for a fifth grade class today at P.K. Yonge, University of Florida's Developmental Research K-12 school, and I almost had a cow! I was working with an awesome intern who basically had already learned the ropes and did most of everything the teacher left in the plans. But when we went to math, I noticed she suddenly became somewhat glued to her phone and I thought, "now that isn't very professional." Turns out, I spoke too soon! She was using a Kagan app on her phone! For those of you who aren't familiar, Kagan strategies are what's been in for more than just a few seasons in education. Dr. Spencer and his wife, Laurie Kagan are the "gurus," so to speak. Kagan strategies, in a nutshell, exist to keep students actively engaged in their learning.

This Name Selector works by randomly going through the names of the students in your class with a sound similar to the wheel turning in Wheel of Fortune. The intern, used it as she taught math to choose different students to answer. It is a great way to give everyone an equal chance to try, cancels out favoritism or oversight and gets the kids excited to be chosen to participate rather than dread being called on.

It is amazing to me that no matter how much I learn about technological advances in education and even though I live in a digitally-driven society, I still find awe in these new discoveries. It never once occurred to me that these phenomenal educators and researchers we have learned about in my education courses had put out anything other than books, classroom activity kits and instructional DVDs. I was completely unaware that these people, though cutting-edge in their pedagogical techniques, were developing apps! Seems silly, right? I guess I too, still need to expand my view of all the possibilities there are to incorporate technology in education (not to mention stop being a smartphone hold out and give up this dinosaur of a phone so I can equip myself to be on the forefront of the digital education revolution). 

Friday, November 16, 2012

"I See Said The Blind Man To His Deaf Dog Listening to the Radio."

The title of this post is an adage that always helps me to remember Mr. Babbitt, my high school AP Economics teacher. More than that, the fear that I have misquoted it and that Mr. Babbitt will probably comment on this blog entry with a slightly humiliating rebuke is a nod to the tight ship he ran and pays homage to his fool-proof classroom management.

A few weeks ago, I went home to Miami to support my friend's play that was debuting at a local theater. While I was there, I opted to shadow Mr. Babbitt. It had been 8 years since I sat in his classroom and there I was an unlikely student, learning new lessons. Since I am on the "career-changer" path to teacher certification, it is very important that I learn as much as I can from teachers that have had successful careers in teaching and are experts in the subjects I will be teaching, English and Social Studies. He now taught Government as well. Mr. Babbitt graciously welcomed me into his room and though he did not have to, would periodically interrupt his lesson to stop and give me pointers and words of encouragement on my new career path. I picked up many valuable things from my day with Mr. Babbitt. I will take these nuggets into the classroom with me for years to come and am eternally grateful. I realized that I never truly understood Mr. Babbitt's love for what he does and his students when I was his pupil; I totally missed that as an 18 year old senior in his class. While I do believe it is possible that Mr. Babbitt and I may not have the same teaching philosophy and perhaps I will utilize different methods, the fundamentals are the same. We want every student to learn, succeed and know that they are worth it. Mr. Babbitt retires soon and I appreciate his willingness to pass on the torch to us rookies.

Me and Mr. Babbitt
Mr. Babbitt was still up to his old tricks.  Making tardy students stand up next to him in front of the class for an awkward amount of time to learn a lesson in punctuality, drinking out of his two decade old Miami Metro Zoo water bottle, hurling insults in a loving way that only he could do and making jokes that most of his students would not appreciate until about 5 years later. But even so, things had changed.

TECHNOLOGY was upon us in ways that had not existed when I was his student just a few years ago. For one, when students asked to use the restroom, Mr. Babbitt took their cell phone as "collateral" to ensure that they would return and in a timely manner. These devices were not as pervasive when I was in high school. To fact check himself, Mr. Babbitt would pull out his iPhone and look up the info (YES, his iPhone-- now only if we could convince him to upgrade his water bottle)!  What?! I think my alma mater, North Miami Beach Senior High, dare I say it, has wi-fi? Of course the occurences detailed here hardly seem worth noting but indeed they are. As I was watching Mr. Babbitt in action, I realized that even the most seasoned teachers who we would expect to be resistant to change eventually have to move with the tide.