Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Sharing is Caring!

If you have ever met me IRL (in real life), I am very well known as somebody that will talk to anybody about just about anything, cracks jokes, and I am genuinely interested in what others are doing in their classrooms, careers, and professional and personal lives.  Believe it or not, there was a time that I was not as extroverted as I am now.  I didn't want to get in front of groups to talk.  I wasn't as willing to put my ideas on the table; I was legitimately concerned with how people would judge me or my ideas/work.  But something switched in me sometime in the waning days of high school and into college.  

I became more open and willing to put myself out there.  Sure, I have fallen on my face plenty of times, and done more things that were plenty embarrassing, professionally, educationally, and personally.  I stopped worrying about how others would judge me or my work.  

I can attribute this to my brother, who would have been 34 on December 11.  My brother had a can-do spirit and a don't care attitude about lots of things.  One of his favorite things to say about how people judged him was "DILLIGAF", which stands for "does it look like I give a..." (you can fill in the blank).  After his death on January 14, 2010, I really embraced the idea of what others thought and how not to care about it, simply putting myself and my work out there.  

Now, don't get me wrong, there are lots of things that you should care about in regards to what others think.  If your wife tells you that she hates mustaches and you have one, maybe you should shave it.  If your supervisor wants to you do something a certain way, such as your lesson plans, you should care what they think and say and adjust to their standards.  But overall, you should take a risk to put your work out there for others to see, take constructive criticism, and dismiss the negative words.  

I am not an expert by any means on much of anything, but I feel that I have something of value to share.  That is why I write this blog.  I feel that my knowledge, my skills, and sometimes, my opinions, are something that is worth sharing and that somebody, even if it is only one person, can relate to and learn from.  This is why I started The BeerEDU Podcast with my friend, Ben Dickson.  This is why another podcast is on it's way (more on this in a future post, I have a feeling that you'll really dig the idea behind the new podcast and the person that I have the absolute honor or working with on it!).  This is why I am active on social media, mostly Twitter, but a little bit of Facebook, and participate in several Twitter chats (some of my favorites are #nvedchat, #teachnvchat, #ditchbook, #cuechat, #peardeckchat, and #tosachat, and recently jumped into #CreateEDU and a one time chat, #CoTeachSpecEdChat, which I hope becomes a regular chat, because it was AWESOME!).  This is why I travel around to conferences to present.  This is why I am thinking about starting a video blog on YouTube, even if it's more of just sharing what's going on in my life all around, not simply sharing ideas on new tools and ways to teach.

Bottom line, like a frequently used saying states, "The smartest person in the room is the room."  Share what you know.  Get it out on as many platforms as you can.  Does that mean you have to start a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, etc.?  By no means, but the more ways that you can share with our community of educators, the better we all are, because like another saying, "We are all #BetterTogether".

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I wrote a post about disconnecting and the benefits of doing so.  I plan to do the same, for the most part, over the winter holiday.  Granted, there are some things that I need to do, such as work on some assignments for my master's program, submit my Google Certified Trainer application (I was rejected a few months ago because I did not provide any feedback from sessions, I went out of my way to collect feedback over the last few months!), record and publish a year in review episode of The BeerEDU Podcast with my friend, Ben Dickson (subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!) and as I mentioned previously, there is a second podcast on the horizon and my partner and I will be planning, recording, and publishing.   But overall, I will be relatively silent on Twitter and Facebook, I will not be writing a new blog post, and will instead get out on my new bike as much as I can, teach my children how to ride bikes (Santa is bringing them bikes!), and catch up on some reading, all while spending time with family and friends. 

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday, and until next time...

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Meeting the Emotional & Academic Needs of Students Through Technology

A couple of weeks ago, my co-teacher and I were in the midst of teaching a unit in world history on the Industrial Revolution.  Part of the standards for the unit required that we address the rise of capitalism and socialism as a result of the Industrial Revolution.  While I have taught social studies for most of my career, I had never taught world history until this year.  I probably spend more time than the average world history teacher on content while prepping lessons or helping my co-teacher prep lessons because of my lack of experience in world history.  Full disclosure, I have only taken one world history course in my life, a Western Civilization course as a freshman in college.  My focus in social studies was more on American history, economics, and government.  But while I have been learning a ton in my research to prepare better world history lessons, something else occurred to me after my lesson on capitalism and socialism.  

After teaching the lesson on capitalism and socialism to one of my classes through Pear Deck, one of my students approached me with a very concerned look on their face.  I have gotten to know this student very well over the course of the last few months, not just because this student is in my class, but because this student is also on my special education caseload and I have already written their IEP for this school year.  The student asked if they could talk to me in the hallway, which now had me concerned.  

Once in the hallway, the student asked what they could do regarding the lesson we had just finished because they did not get it at all.  I offered to sit with the student and review the materials that would be sent to them via Pear Deck's Takeaway function and help with the video enrichment lesson that the rest of the class had started in Edpuzzle.  While appreciative, the student was more concerned with how fast the lesson had gone and that they could not keep up, so they asked if I could slow down the lesson the next time we did something similar.  

It dawned on me perhaps I had gone too fast.  While no other student had shared that concern with me, it didn't mean that others in the class had also missed some or most of the lesson because they could not keep up.  Over the course of about 3 seconds, after the student had asked me to slow down my lesson, I came up with a potential solution.  It wouldn't be something that I could do immediately, but it was something that would not only catch that student up but in the future, the option would be there again for clear any confusion and review material.  

My thought was, "Could I take the Pear Deck presentation, pare out the interactive questions slides, open it in a standard Google Slides presentation format, and use Screencastify to record my screen and my voice going over the material of the lesson to share with that student and the rest of the class?"  (By the way, did you catch my hilarious pun back there?  HA!)  The answer to my question was similar to what it always is: you won't know unless you give it a shot!

I pulled my co-teaching partner aside and gave him the lowdown of the conversation that I had in the hallway and my idea.  As I have mentioned in the past, my partner is not very techie, so his response was somewhere along the lines of "You know how to do that?"  I asked him if I could step aside into a quiet room for a few minutes where I could record the screencast, do some quick editing, post it to YouTube or download a compatible file, and share it out to the students.  He said he would cover our class and to get it done because he was excited to see what I would come up within such a short amount of time.  

I got settled in, cut the presentation down to the bare essentials and opened up the Screencastify extension to begin recording.  Then another thing dawned on me:  would the new closed captioning function in Google Slides show up in a screen recording?  Before I went any further, I conducted a test run recording my screen with the closed caption function turned on.  I spoke a few words and recorded it for a few seconds.  Upon opening the file, I was ecstatic that it did show up in the recording! Now, not only would I be able to record my presentation and share it with my students so they could watch, pause, rewind, etc. at any time, my handful of deaf and hard of hearing students could benefit from reading what I was saying as well!  

Disclaimer: the closed captioning function in Google Slides is by no means perfect.  However, I did not notice any glaring discrepancies in what I was saying and what was showing up on the screen.  I highly recommend a quiet place if you want to use the function and do not want any other voice to potentially show up in your recording.  If you want to read more about this function, please check out my post titled Google Slides Extensions & Add-Ons.  

Any technology tool that you use needs to have a connection to improving student learning and solid pedagogy, not just making your classroom paperless or giving you less to do (however, those are nice perks, they just shouldn't be the main reason why they are used).  But so many of the tools available at educators' disposal now also can address students' emotional well being.  In the case of the screencast I created, my student's anxiety was lessened because now they had the opportunity to review the material at their own pace. Programs like Flipgrid and speech to text allows for students that are self-conscious about their writing to still be able to share their thoughts.  Students that are petrified of presenting in front of a crowd can create a video to show the class or a multitude of other alternatives.  Students frustrated with their reading skills can use text to speech functions to follow along with reading while they listen to it.  Then there are the numerous accessibility features in devices that can do things like enlarge the print on the screen and highlight the mouse cursor.  While these tools are designed to assist students academically, the byproduct of their use is also less stress and anxiety about struggles and concerns that students may have.

I am always interested in how others address students emotional well being, through tech or without tech.  If you have a nugget to share, please share on Twitter with #AndersonEdTech!

Until next time...