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Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Friday!

Image result for It's Friday!


It's been a long week this week and I am eternally grateful that it's Friday! From spring fever to finding out Trump is the potential presidential nominee for the GOP, and being worn out, it's been a heck of a week!  We are heading into mid-May and the students are started to get riled up for summer vacation - I'm not sure who is more excited, the students or me!  


Last night, I met with my district-wide English Articulation Committee for our last meeting of the year.  We discussed all the possibilities we would like to see happen next year including professional development opportunities, creating a district wide PLC for 9th and 10th grade English, and a few other things.  One thing that we focused on was the idea of creating "course outcomes"  for next year.

Course outcomes allows us to check for mastery of a skill, something we as teachers so desperately need to do, but often find it hard to do.  With course outcomes, we break down each standard for English and create a rubric that allows us to check for mastery with four levels - exceeds mastery, mastered, approaching mastery  and not mastered. We can then determine how we want it graded.  It looks like a super cool idea to begin to implement and I have already spoken with a colleague who is in the same PLC as I am and we are going to work to create course outcomes for each standard. It is going to take some work, but I am thinking and hoping the time we invest will pay off!  

It is funny that we were speaking about course outcomes because in my grad school class, we are discussing grading practices and how the current grading practice is not effective and does not truly indicate whether students have mastered skills, it just gives an overview of the student's ability within the class. This could include behavior, participation, etc which are all not effective in determining whether the student has actually mastered theme or inferences.  My grad school class talks frequently about standard-based grading and giving a purpose behind each grade.  It makes so much more sense to grade according to mastery, but how can we do this when the education system is still stuck in an era that is long gone and continues to use the same grading scale that has been used for years?  What are your thoughts on it?


Cheers until next time!

Ms. Bergin

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week



As I navigate through my workweek, I hear from so many teacher-friends who say their school does nothing to show appreciation to the teachers that work there.  I am fortunate to work in a school that DOES show their appreciation. From a school-sponsored lunch to thank you cards from the students to small treats such as ice cream sundaes, my school works to make sure we know we are appreciated and I am grateful for that.  If your school is one of the ones that does not do anything for Teacher Appreciation week, check out various restaurants that are giving free entrees or discounts on meals in honor of Teacher Appreciation week!  I know IHop is offering a free entree to any teacher who comes in this week with a teacher badge!   

It is not always easy to be a teacher.  In many ways we are juggling many different jobs at the same time, from teaching, to being a nurse, a therapist, a mother (or father), friend, to administrative work and coaching, volunteering time after school to tutor and so many more. It's a wonder that we even have any kind of personal life!  Know that I appreciate each and every one of the amazing teachers I've come to know and admire.  Know that I appreciate the teachers I have had that have pushed me through. Know that I even appreciate the teachers who have tried to knock me down for giving me the fire and ammunition that I needed to keep going - you tell me I can't do something, I'm going to prove you wrong!

In a time of crisis within the education world, it is easy to lose sight of why we are teachers, it's easy to lose hope.  We are at the forefront of education. Politicians have no idea how to run a classroom. They wouldn't survive a day in the life of a teacher.  We must unite and speak up in support of education and more importantly, in support of our students.  Our students depend on us to make education better for them. They deserve the best education we can provide.  We must stand united and speak up and drive the change in education in the right direction. That change begins right now, within our classrooms. We know what our students need, so let's give them what they need to succeed.

The National Teacher of the Year was announced recently and she is a teacher at the high school I attended when I was in high school. I am so amazed by Mrs. Hayes' enthusiasm and drive for teaching, learning, and making sure the students succeed in life.  Her students are the reason she teaches.  Mrs. Hayes stresses the importance of making personal connections with her students as one of the reasons she does her job so well.  As teachers, we understand the importance of building relationships with our students.  We always have that handful each year that we build a great relationship with, but what about the others? I teach on average 70 students per semester.  I build relationships with several students each semester, but not all.  What can we as teachers do to build a relationship with ALL of our students, not just a handful?  



Cheers until next time!

Ms. Bergin

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Digital Tools

Hey y'all!

As my graduate course focusing on Integration Specialist Toolbox winds down, there are many tech tools I would like to introduce to you to incorporate within your classes that  I have explored within my course.  As a teacher in a very tech-accepting school, many of the tools I have been exposed to within my course, I already knew about.  It was a great feeling to know I am ahead of the game, but at the same time I wish I could be introduced to tools I am unaware of.  Nonetheless, this course afforded me the opportunity to explore tools that I have not yet had a chance to explore.


Podcast
Podcast is a great technology tool that I have not really explored until now.  I knew of podcasts, but just never really looked into it as a tech tool to incorporate within the classroom.  That might be partially because I was never one to listen to the radio, or listen to audio books, preferring actual videos to watch and books to read. I'm sure some of it stems from the fact I am hearing impaired and can't really listen to a podcast without a transcript.  

A podcast is essentially a digital audio file available on the internet for downloading to computer or media player.  Anyone can create a podcast - teachers, students, administrators, community members, and parents can create a podcast for a multitude of reasons. 

A teacher can create a podcast for students who are auditory learners. They can post lectures in podcast form and have students listen to it at home.  Students can create podcasts for assignments if they are verbally articulate, but not as articulate through the written word.  The one major downside to a podcast is it is not necessarily an inclusive tool.  People who are hard of hearing will have a difficult time listening to a podcast, though if they have a transcript, they can read along while listening.  

The only thing you need for a podcast is your computer, microphone, or even just a smartphone and do everything from your smartphone.  Creating a podcast is generally very cheap, and in some cases, it is free - if you upload it to Youtube it's free.   If you want someone else to create the podcast, he or she may require a fee of some sort.  If you want to find podcasts online, occasionally you will have to pay a fee, especially if it is through a site like iTunes.  

Training on a podcast is very minimal.  Most of us have experience with video-taping and even just giving lectures as well as possibly using an audio recorder to keep notes.  Consider podcasts like a video, except without the images.  

I am going to have students try to create a podcast.  I will post when I get a sample podcast.  In the meantime, go to youtube.com and google podcasts for your content area to get an idea of what a podcast looks like.



Diigo
I had heard of Diigo, but had not used it up until now. Diigo is an app that you can add on to your Google Chome and when you come across articles, assignments, videos, lesson plans, etc that you would like to look at later, you can send it straight to your Diigo and it keeps track of everything for you. It's almost like bookmarking a page, except you can actually annotate everything you put in your Diigo.  It's excellent for someone like me who loves to look up resources, but might not have time to look at it at that moment, so I can just throw it in my Diigo and then look at it later. As an English teacher, I LOVE annotating so this annotation feature is like Christmas to me!  Another feature that I love is the fact I can create groups in Diigo and my colleagues and I can share articles, files, etc with one another.  This is great when one of us finds an article on a new "best practice" strategy and want to share it with others. When we share articles through email, it tends to get lost in the massive amount of emails we get per day. With Diigo, it's right there and easy to access at any time.  

Diigo is complete free to use! All you need is an internet connection and an electronic device that connects you to the internet. Go to Diigo.com and sign up. When you sign up, it will ask you whether you want to add a Diigo extension button on your Google Chrome toolbar.  I added the extension button and it really makes it easier to just click on the button and send articles to my Diigo account without having to navigate first to Diigo and then putting the file in. 

The only negative feature about Diigo is you can't make anything available offline, like you can with Google Drive (at least that's according to my knowledge. If anyone knows anything different, PLEASE let me know!).

Training on Diigo is very self-independent.  I hope you take the opportunity to explore Diigo and incorporate it in your PLC/PLN.

Cheers until next time!

Ms. Bergin

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Google Apps

Google has made more improvements and more strides than any other app that I know in the last few years.  I can recall when Google was nothing more than a search engine!  Google has come so far and I can only imagine the what Google has in store for us.

Four years ago, my high school became a 1:1 environment. each student was provided their own Chromebook.  Four years ago, Google Drive was just getting started. We were all exploring and learning.  Now, using Google Drive has become far more common than using paper in our building. Teachers use Google Classroom as well. I used Google Classroom and enjoyed it before I found that Canvas (another Learning Management System) was better suited to my needs.  I believe we are only just beginning with Google Apps and that in a year or two it will be like we have never seen or anticipated.

I am one who enjoys learning how to use technology. I like to set time aside in the morning on the weekends to play with new apps and tools that I learn about or are recommended to me.  That way, it is considered "fun" and it's not required.  Side note - once something becomes required for work, it's no longer fun for me.  I do hear how many teachers just don't have the time to learn about new technology, and I honestly don't blame them.  I mean, who really has the time between grading papers, prepping lessons, making phone calls, doing administrative work, and who knows what else to learn about something that may or may not be useful in the classroom.  I think this is when we need to collaborate with others.  When we collaborate and share tech tools, we no longer have to go looking, we already have a synopsis of the tool or app and we just need to look into it further if we so desire.  My survey results indicated that all that took the survey would like to collaborate with others outside our district when it comes to learning about tech tools and apps.  If we collaborate with others outside our district, and even outside our state using tools such as Google Apps, the education system might get a lot further along with technology integration and 21st century skills.

Here is the survey to fill out.








The results of the survey as of 8:50pm is:
https://goo.gl/8gbkGT
(sorry, could not get images posted here for some reason. If you click the link, 
you should be able to access the results. If not, please let me know in the comments!)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Social Networking in Education

 outline the pros and cons associated with allowing social networking in schools. 
My mother told me of a conversation she had with my younger sisters (who happened to be 19, and 15 at the time).  

Mom: "Does anyone have a list of everyone's email?"
19 year old sister: "I have some emails, but not everyone's"
15 year old sister: "Email? Seriously Mom? Who even emails anymore?"
Mom and 19 year old sister: Stares at 15 year old sister in disbelief 

When I was in high school, Email and AOL Instant messenger was considered all the social networking tools we had.  A lot has changed in the last ten years since I graduated high school.  Social networking is a form of communication.  There are so many tools that can be used for social networking today from Facebook to Snapchat to Instagram to Twitter and Vimeo.  Our students are so used to utilizing tools such as these for communication and the latest tools are always ever-changing. To put it plainly, social networking is never going away, it's only going to evolve.  

Once administrators, teachers, and parents understand that social networking is here to stay, only then can we start to look at how it can be embedded in the curriculum.  As teachers, we are always trying to reach our students and get them engaged. In order to do that, we have to incorporate what they use, and that is social networking.  

Social networking has its pros and cons.  

Pros
Increase participation:  Students are more likely to participate in activities - especially if they are shy.
Increase collaboration: Using Google Drive to collaborate will help increase collaboration.  All students are involved in the activity instead of only one person doing all the writing
Keeps everyone aware of everything going on. This means due dates, projects, tests, etc  and even parents can be kept up to date. Students can also post questions and have the teacher respond and everyone sees the questions/answers.

Cons
Distraction:  This has to be one of the most common issues with social networking in the classroom.  Our students truly don't have the maturity to make sure social network isn't a distraction from the task at hand. 
Cyber-bullying: Since there is a "wall", some students feel they are invincible and will bully others on social networking and can do it anonymously.  Instructors will need to monitor for this consistently.
Posting inappropriate content: This can be especially true for high school students. Just the other day, I had all students work together on a Google Document  and the document was up on the Smartboard, but that didn't prevent some students from posting off-task images of MEMEs or inappropriate photographs.

We need to realize that social networking can be a valuable asset to the classroom, but at the same time understand that we need to teach our students how to use it appropriately and have a way to monitor the use of social network.  More often than not, educators, administrators, district officials do not trust students enough to allow them freedom.  More often than not, students will test the limits.  It is a matter of what we do when those students test the limits.  Do we remove social networking privileges from those students? Why should we penalize an entire student body for a handful of students who want to test the limits?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Hiatus

Hey y'all!

It's been quite a hiatus for me, I can't even believe it has been over a year since I have last posted on my blog! :(  My life has been one whirlwind after another and it is finally starting to calm down... for now at least.

I am still teaching at the same school I was before my hiatus and teaching specifically English I and II.  I teach primarily inclusion classes so it has been an uphill battle getting used to all the different skill levels.  Thank goodness for technology!!

My classes and I have been super busy lately learning about the Holocaust while reading Elie Wiesel's memoir, Night. The students are learning something new all the time and really asking amazing questions and making connection between the Holocaust and various current issues. I'm so excited they are able to make these connections without my help.

My English I class has been working on navigating through The Odyssey. Once again, I get the same ol' question... what's the point of reading this epic?  Why can't we read something we want to read, that we can read.   I agree with these questions and pose those questions to you... Why must we stick with the classics - why not read books that students can understand and relate with more?

I am currently in graduate school for Curriculum and Instruction with Integrating Technology. Yep, it's a mouthful, but I am halfway through and am so pleased with my decision to make this my major for my Masters degree.  Since I am in grad school I will sadly be unable to travel the world extensively this summer as I have been doing the last few summers.  Hopefully I will be able to share with you some of the things I have learned during my courses!

Cheers!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Digital Footprints

My own digital footprint truly started when Myspace and Facebook was born.  I ventured into the Myspace world in 2004 and quickly ditched Myspace for Facebook the following year.  I was your average college student, posting photographs on Myspace/Facebook, commenting on others' pages, etc.  I had an email I used regularly.  I had accounts on several websites (including Neopets - throwback anyone!?).  My digital footprint was establish a little over ten years ago and it has changed since my first footprint.  
(careerrockeeter.com)

When I first joined the chaos of the digital world, I had footprints all over the digital world. I had footprints on Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, any type of social media, I had some kind of imprint on it.  It was rather easy to find information and I had no regards for consequences of the digital world.  I never thought about how anything might come back to haunt me (and thankfully, I never did anything online that I could possibly regret).  Now, I am much more conscious of what I post and have scaled back tremendously on the various social media that I once used.  I see students today playing with Snap chat, Yik-Yak, taking photos with their phones and texting to friends or posting it on social media. I see students emailing one another or posting comments that are negative or could be considered bullying.  I see so many students that believe they are invincible and will never get in trouble.  I constantly explain that whatever they post is there to stay and will follow them for the rest of their days. Even texts messages can follow them forever.  I believe that as teachers, we have a duty and obligation to teach our students "digital citizenship".  We are required to teach students how to behave properly in school, how to conduct themselves when on field trips to represent the school, or when there are speakers in the classroom.  We have to teach our students how to conduct themselves in the digital world so that the digital world portrays them in the best light possible.  We teach our students not to bully, but there are "cyber-bullying" incidents happening.  We must teach our students not to cyber-bully.  Our students are at the age where they believe they can't be hurt.  That because it's done over a computer it can't be traced back to them. They feel more confident in bullying or making poor choices in the digital world because a "screen protects them". They have no idea the screen doesn't actually protect them.  

The digital world is a new world for adults, but it's a world that our students have known all their lives. As adults, we lived in one world as children - the "real world".  Our students have two worlds - the real world and the digital world.  We see the need to protect ourselves and our privacy. Our students almost have no concept of privacy so they don't see the need to be private with things.  Today's children as soon as they're born have a digital footprint when parents post photos on their social media pages.  We must teach the concept of privacy - what's ok and what's not ok to post. We have to teach what cyber-bullying is and work to prevent it from occurring. We have to teach our students to present themselves in the best way possible in the digital world. We have to teach students that a digital footprint is there to stay, no ocean is going to wash that footprint away.