For this entry, I researched Bam Radio. I listened to two of the podcasts provided that spoke on how to do a few things well and also how to cultivate student motivation.

The first podcast that I listened to was “Every Classroom Matters- Improving Teaching by Doing a Few Things Well” ~ George Couros. In this podcast, George spoke about an innovator’s mindset which should be looked at as powerful learning first and technology second. He spoke about how less is more and everything should be made as simple as possible. One example of this was school wide/district wide initiatives. Most often trying to implement theses initiatives cause individuals, both staff and students, to become overwhelmed. The focus is done at doing everything average rather than taking a few things to be done amazingly. George viewed it as taking a plate and filling it with work. Rather than overfilling our place, we want to have small portions that we can focus more on.  One personal experience he spoke of was professional development. As a technology mentor at his school, he was asked to hold ten meetings where he would introduce ten different apps that can me used in the classroom. George had found that teachers were reluctant to use them because there was too much choice for the apps that they didn’t know where to start. Moving forward, he then chose three sources of technology (Word Press, Google Apps- Drive/Classroom, and Twitter). In a three year focus period, they would focus on working with these three technologies and really learning how to utilize them within the classroom setting. By limiting things down, it alleviates that strong sense of being overwhelmed. It seems that it is build into our culture that provides so much choice and the mindset that teachers need to be all things to all children. George mentioned that it was crucial that educators develop as a school and not necessarily as classroom teachers. What he meant and the example that he provided regarding this statement is that while I may not be an expert on technology, I can find someone within my building that is an expert, and learn best practices through them. We need to find the strengths within these people in order to dive in deep. So much time is spent trying to be everything to every child which they don’t always need. Once relationships are built based on trust, educators experience our students in a different way and in their own light.

When we as educators try to do too much, it often takes away from the educator that we truly are. We shouldn’t have to put in extra hours before or after school in order to craft the perfect lesson. When that connection with your students is formed, the lessons as a whole are more meaningful and the students tend to do a much better job. As educators we need to set ourselves boundaries, set a time and when time is up it is okay to move on and come back as needed. Prioritizing is also key as an educator. Most people take on too much and have a hard time emptying their plate when it becomes overwhelming. It’s not that teachers don’t want to do things, but often times they are asked and the hardest part is saying no. Teachers are encouraged to say no and at times it is more than okay. If they are asked to perform a task that places them out of their comfort zone, saying no is more beneficial being that they may know that they are not fit to fulfill a task

The  second PodCast that I listened to was “How Skilled Teacher Cultivate Motivated Students” ~ Larry Ferlazzo. This podcast touched on an inquiry that I had coming into this course which was really building student motivation. Larry spoke that the key is to help students tap into their own energy to in turn motivate themselves intrinsically. He stated that extrinsic motivation will work to encourage behavior that is basic, however it will not work to encourage behavior or work that is creative or related to high order thinking.  There are four main qualities that allow intrinsic motivation to take place:

  1. Autonomy- feeling like the student has a voice in what is being done
  2. Related- what they are being asked to do is helping them as a student
  3. Relevant- the purpose of a task is related to their hopes and dreams
  4. Competence- feeling that they are capable. The goal is not to reduce their intrinsic motivation and failing them, but rather we want to build up their motivation.

Larry stated that by providing cognitive choice such as homework, what would they want to do that would help them the most. Teaching learning strategies to the whole class and allowing students to determine which strategies they are comfortable in using. The basis of motivation is metacognition- encouraging students to explore what is most helpful. He brought up a good point that teachers are not around all the time. Therefore, we have to prepare them beyond the classroom and build their confidence to be able to apply strategies constructively.  Help student stay motivated by providing feedback, praise and effort. Create situations where students provide their own feedback to themselves and their peers. Giving students to monitor their own progress on classroom tasks so they can follow their own success. The last strategy that was suggested was “plusing”. This means that when you comment on someone’s work instead of saying “but”, replace it with the word “and”. This works on adding to what work is already in place rather than criticizing what is right there.



Academic Dishonesty

Describe an assignment which would be difficult for students to complete through plagiarism or academic dishonesty.  (Include strategies for reducing academic dishonesty.)

After reading the Edutopia article, “Why Students Cheat—and What to Do About It”- I was really able to reflect and relate to this. When I was a senior in high school, we had to write a Theology paper which was required to be four pages in length. I remember thinking about really working on it, then I fell into that category of wanting to get it done- without putting in the work. I plagiarized more than half of my paper from a compilation of three different websites. Of course I got caught! I had to serve a detention and I was given the opportunity to make up the assignment in two days or receive a failing grade. I learned my lesson for sure- it only took one reality check that it’s not worth it to take the short cut.

Reflecting back on this course and the assignments/Voxer chart/ Blog Post topics that we discussed, most were meaningful.  By designing assignments that students are able to speak from experience, and relate to the course topic- it allows for students to really express and elaborate on such topics. One thing with online classes is that you really only get out of it what you put in. I know for me, online classes are most convenient due to my daily commute. I enjoy going through assignments at my leisure. What really makes the assignments enjoyable is speaking from experience on the topics- being able to relate, and converse or even vent about topics allows us to dig deep into our teaching strategies and relate to other educators.

When designing online instruction, make assignments meaningful. If a student has to relate to a topic rather than research a topic- it really takes away that temptation to plagiarize. Include options in the assignment such as: provide an example, what has worked well, what has helped you, etc. Integrating these statements into assignments really promotes that self-reflection piece. Writing for self-reflection allows the individual to complete the assignment at hand, but really allows the individual to dig deep within themselves. Provide examples of your own reflection to an assignment to give the individual a model response that you are looking for.  By integrating these components into assignment expectations and details, it allows for students to write as a way of reflecting for self-growth rather than to complete a task.

Inquiry Reflection

When beginning this course, I felt that utilizing technology within the classroom wasn’t being done to its fullest extent to best benefit my students.  Having twelve students across three grade levels with varying strengths in different academic areas, what they were given wasn’t best modified to their learning needs. Throughout course discussion, blog posts, and sharing of strategies across all grade levels really helped me evaluate how i can better use technology in my classroom.

I go back to week one of this semester and one of the questions that I had was –

  1. How to modify online assessments to fit students academic needs level?

Since this initial blog post, I have had so much help clarifying this question throughout the past twelve weeks of this course and through district professional development as well. The websites that we have experimented with through this course such as TedEd has been one way that I have modified assignments for my students. This has been helpful for my students who gravitate more towards visual aids to be successful in the classroom. By attaching videos into the lesson and also being able to give helpful hints, such as where to locate answers based on the length of the video, allows my students to continue to be successful independently. I have used this website to redo approaching level assessments. The videos that I have used to attach to the lesson have ranged from grammar videos to videos that I have found on the Flocabulary website.

Another way that I have modified assessments which has really helped some of my students with autism is utilizing flip grid. I was introduced to this at a professional development in my district and it has really created a fun and innovative way for my students to take assessments. Most of my students are tested at the approaching level so remaking the test at times can be time consuming but the benefits that my kids get when they receive that A or B on the assessment-make the time worth it.  Using flip grid changes up how questions are answered by either dragging and dropping, matching shapes, video call and response, graphs, etc. It is interactive for them and when they struggle with reading something on their own, they are able to click and have questions read to them. I feel that it has been the best way to accomodate my students with autism because the constant change in the set up of the test and the interactive activities that coincide with answering questions keep the students engaged throughout the duration of the assessment.

Through weekly Vox check ins with classmates, and hearing others discuss struggles they face and the recommendations that were offered has really helped me grow as an educator. Our group discussions made me realize that at times we all struggle in different areas when it comes to teaching- and that’s okay. It is the way that we can dig deeper, discuss our troubles and listen to what others have to offer that helps us grow best.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

What implications does FERPA have in an online learning environment?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, passed in 1974,  was originated to give parents permission in order to access school and/or district records regarding their child. It was required that written permission must be given before the school and/or district can disclose information to those other than the parent. This is primarily for individuals that are under the age of 18, or for institutions lower than the post secondary level. Those that are over the age of 18 are known as “eligible students” and are able to make their own decisions about educational records.

FERPA protects individuals engaged in educational programs. These include but are not limited to early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, special education, job training, career and technical education, and adult education. The FERPA act protects nearly 16,000 school districts, servicing approximately 49 million students made up of both public and private schools. These educational programs have assured that staff is appropriately trained on privacy issues to be in compliance with FERPA.

If FERPA would be violated, funding would not be provided to the institution. To date, there have been no reported violations that in which funds needed to be withheld from any institution or educational program.

Social Media Guidelines

The importance of social media guidelines/policies is key to being successful in our classrooms. When utilizing social media or the internet, this could easily make or break an organization. Having clear guidelines is important to have in order to assure that all educators and students know the limitations to what can and cannot be posted.

Social media is a  valuable tool for teaching and learning. Some of the benefits to this are to promote student engagement, and more importantly to provide opportunities for active engagement. Students can work collaboratively with both peers and teachers, sharing and editing assignments. A networked classroom is a sharing classroom, students are able to participate, publish and network in real ways. Being networked means working collaboratively and creating learning centered classroom which encourages kids to develop skills to be lifelong, self-directed learners. We transition the students to be teachers by both helping adults and the kids in the room learn. Together they can begin to create meaningful things as a team.

Important components that should be included with social media guidelines/policies are appropriate reasons for publishing, posting guidelines and exceptions, and acceptable linking. Making sure these are clear to staff and students is beneficial to making sure nothing is exposed that should not be. We want to make sure that privacy safeguards are in place for both staff and students and consent is given before exposing one’s work.

At the beginning of the school year, students are not permitted to use technology unless the policy and procedures letter is signed by both parents and students and returned. Having this on file validates that the information was provided to the families and if the policy and procedures are not followed, then appropriate actions will be taken. I then review this policy at Back to School Night with my parents. I provide an additional copy of the policies and ask that they review this with their child that night. The following day we participate in a “scenario” kahoot based on the policies and procedures. By reviewing with parents and students, I ensure that everything is explicit and clear to the families. The students enjoy playing the scenario Kahoot as this is the first time all students are able to use technology in the classroom.

Personal Learning Networks (PLN)

In Chapter 1 of “Personal Learning Networks” Wiley (2008) stated the six significant shifts that are supporting a connected world of learning. The six shifts are as follows:

  • Analog to digital: Paper is being replaced with digital formats with the use of technology making learning and teaching easier to copy, share and collaborate with. Google was mentioned in this first step- having been introduced to Google Drive, collaborating with grade level teachers has been extremely beneficial to the team that I work with daily.
  • Tethered to mobile: Technology has replaced the traditional set up of learning which was based from sitting behind a desk. Most of our work can be done through technology, smart phones, tablets and computers. Being connected to the wirelessly has become the biggest transition for the United States- most people utilize cell phones in order to be connected to the Internet. In turn, this is transforming a huge shift in our classrooms becoming “digital”
  • Isolated to connected: learning is being taken from right within the classroom to forming connections and communicating with individuals all around the world. We are able to expand learning globally, forming digital classrooms with individuals around the world in order to extend our learning from the four walls within our classroom.
  • Generic to personal: While individuals have their own interests, they are not alone. By connecting digitally, we can connect our interests with those that pursue the same interests as our own.
  • Consumption to creation: Learning is more than just internalizing what it is we are taught. It is about internalizing information and sharing it out.
  • Closed systems to open systems: This seems to be the most challenging of them all. At first utilizing the internet there were many closed and secure sites that had information. We are taking a shift in this and are beginning to see more and more sites becoming open and the ability to shart more information and knowledge onto these sites.

All of these resources are a huge shift for us as educators. Technology has opened the doors for so many opportunities for both educators and students. The formation of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) gives educators the opportunity to collaborate in a connected world. IT gives us the opportunity to gain access to so much more than just the curriculum we present within the classroom. It allows the access to sharing what we have learning, to publish information and share resources with educators worldwide. One thing that I have learned in my career is that, educators are not alone. While they are becoming scarce, there are so many educators that stand in front of a classroom presenting children with the same curriculum. As the vision of teaching is changing, the one thing that remains consistent is learning. Whether it be online of offline, individuals are still learning on a daily basis. By making connections online, we are creating meaningful learning interactions to be formed between students. This is the 21st Century.

There have been two ways that I have been a participant in Personal Learning Networks. A few years ago when I was teaching in Philadelphia, Twitter was becoming very popular. My grade team and I made classroom accounts for the three fourth grade classrooms. We tweeted daily accomplishments, students of the week, First in Math allstars, Honor Roll calls, etc. While we as a grade group were so excited to launch our pages, the community did not engage as much as we had anticipated. We included our sites on back to school night and also on our 4th grade welcome letter- participation was limited.

A second way that I am currently involved is a PLC is through Google Drive and Google Classrooms. Through the use of Google amongst our staff members and our students, we are able to share assignments, modify/adapt assignments for students needing specific SDIs and also to provide comments on writing pieces that students submit. This has been a very beneficial way to implement PLC’s because each of the team members upload useful information, assignments, weekly packet information related to our curriculum. During our school day using Google Chat to quickly get in touch with questions we have has also been much easier to stay connected.

Below are some interesting resources that I found related to PLNS:

Surviving Special Education

I spoke with my principal and a colleague about Special Education learners. We discussed specific topics such as SDI’s, implementing online learning with Special Education, problems/ struggles that I am sometimes faced with regarding my students. I received a lot of great feedback from my principal that I would like to share.

Lesson 1: Always have a mentor.

From the first day that I began working at my current school, I remember feeling so overwhelmed taking on an Emotional Support class for the first time. After the first week in the position I went to my principal with a list of questions and concerns. With a smile on his face, he just told me to take a deep breath. He assured me that I was not in this alone and there is plenty of support within our building. He had me meet with a Special Education teacher in our building that has been with the district for 30+ years. She has had ample experience with all age groups and a variety of special education settings. The three of us sat down at the table and he appointed her as my “building mentor”, we discussed all of my questions and concerns and she was able go above and beyond to help me get answers. She had given me examples of documentation records, progress monitoring examples, SDI examples, etc. I walked away from the table with so much knowledge- I could not wait to get started applying everything with each and every one of my students. The lesson here that i took away, is that it is okay to ask for help. So often, people seclude themselves and feel as if they have to be their own mentor, which is probably the worst thing to do! Being in special education and coteaching with three different grade level teachers- communication is key- don’t be afraid to ask!

Lesson 2: You are not alone.

When i took on Emotional support the first year I had some challenges. I was thrown into the position in November when the appointed teacher went out on sick leave after an injury. The students were used to their previous teacher as they had worked together for the past two years. Now here I am, walking in mid year expecting things to go smoothly.  I struggled A LOT! I felt defeated most days and I was unsure of how to handle situations. I was in the learning process of the district, the staff and administration, etc. I didn’t want to be “that teacher” always calling for help. However, I did learn that it is okay if I have to call for assistance with a student. My administrator assured me that I should not be leaving each day stressed out or defeated. He reiterated that he was here for his staff and no problem should be left to someone to deal with alone. This was the best advice I had gotten from him. After 10 years of teaching, I have only ever had one previous administrator support their staff like mine currently does. Having that support is such a great feeling and definitely lifts a huge weight off of my shoulders!

Lesson 3: Data and Documentation

When in college I never understood how important this was to document EVERYTHING, until I was hands-on working in the field. Everything from grades to behaviors should be documented and data collections should be made. It may seem like alot but being organized and having methods or strategies to do this makes life so much easier. I document daily behaviors in each academic area of the day for every one of my students. They are graded on five areas on their behavior charts and their goal is to earn 110% for the day. I chart and graph each behavior and the frequency for each marking period. Although it is a bit of work to set up in at the beginning- the benefits to have the graphs and data to look back on has helped me so much. I also do weekly check ins with general education teachers to discuss academic concerns, SDIs that are working or ones that we can better implement depending on the child. Doing this again might seem like a lot but the documentation and collections of data that I keep are so beneficial to have on file when it comes to writing/revising/ changing placements of an IEP.